Iran Hawks in Washington

September 18th, 2018 by Peter Koenig

No doubt, anti-Iran propaganda out of Washington abounds. There are numerous Zionist-run think-tanks (sic) that make US Foreign Policy – and are ratcheting up anti-Iran anger in the US, but targeting especially the Iranian population at home, in Iran. The notorious chief-villain of these agencies, by the way, highly subsidized by the US State Department, and perhaps even more important, by the powerful US military-security complex, is the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy (FDD). More than fifty years ago, then President Dwight Eisenhower already warned the world about the invasive, abusive and greed-driven powers of this ever-growing war industry.

Nobody really heeded his advice, least the United States with her world hegemonic aspirations. Today we have to live with it – and recognize the dangers emanating from this war complex, that controls more than 50% of the US GDP – all associated industries and services included. If peace was to break out tomorrow – the US economy would collapse. It is, therefore, the new normal that aggressions are flying out from Washington to all those proud countries that refuse to submit themselves to the dictate of the hegemon – like Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, Syria, Russia, China, Pakistan, Cuba —- and many more. The assaults on free and independent thinking nations come in the form of verbal insults, economic sanctions, tariffs, broken international and bilateral agreements – and foremost war threats and provocations. Beware from falling into the trap.

Iran is not alone. It means – moving on and living with this western imposed system – or else…

And else, means getting out of it. Unfortunately, it does little good accusing the devil overseas, like the FDD, NED (National Endowment for Democracy) and whatever else they are called. They will not go away; they just enjoy the anger they generate. And yes, there is a clear and present danger that through Netanyahu and Trump war provocations on Iran are being launched. And yes, as long as Iran is still linked to the western monetary system, and tries hard to stay linked to it, more sanctions will follow, disastrous sanctions – but disastrous only as long as Iran is tied to the western dollar-based economy. If you, Iran, move away from this massive western monetary fraud – and this will not happen over-night – you, Iran, will gradually regain your economic autonomy and political sovereignty. This is crucial.

Fighting and arguing against senseless and totally illegal sanctions and aggressions – or even begging the West to stick to the Nuclear Deal, against Washington’s reneging on the Nuclear Deal, is a waste of time. It will achieve nothing. They, the US of A, will not give in. The Israel and war industrial complex lobbies are too strong. Counting on Europe to stick to the “Deal” is not a good strategy. Even if – for their own selfish interests – the Europeans would want to maintain the 5+1 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), first, you never know whether and when they may cave in to Washington and Israel’s pressure, and second, even if they don’t, you are still linked to the western ponzy-economy through the euro and, thus vulnerable for sanctions.

Most important, however, rather than looking outside for a culprit – i.e. in Washington or Brussels, find the solution from within. There are two major obstacles to keep in mind. The first one Iran is in the process of overcoming, it’s called embarking on an “Economy of Resistance”; the second one is more complicated but not impossible – neutralizing the Fifth Column in Iran. 

Economy of Resistance – is a path to self-sufficiency, economic autonomy and political sovereignty. Iran, under the guidance of the Ayatollah, has already embarked on this de-globalizing route. President Putin said already several years ago, the sanctions were the best thing that happened to Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It forced Russia to rehabilitate an rebuild her agricultural sector and modernize her industrial park. Today Russia is by far the largest wheat exporter in the world and has a cutting-edge industrial arsenal. This message, Mr. Putin, transmitted during his visit to Tehran last November face-to-face to the Ayatollah.

Following the principles of a Resistance Economy implies a gradual, but eventually radical separation from the western monetary system – and adherence to the eastern alliances, like the SCO – Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the BRICS and the Eurasia Economic Union (EEU). Iran is poised to become a member of the SCO within short. These alliances are no longer trading in UDS dollars, have their own international transfer systems – separated from the western, privately run SWIFT which is totally controlled by the US banking moguls – and therefore, SWIFT is a prime instrument to impose financial and economic sanctions, by withholding or blocking international payment transfers and blocking or confiscating assets abroad. 

These eastern alliances are trading in their local currencies and in the case of China and hydrocarbons, even in gold-convertible yuans. One or several new eastern monetary systems are under consideration, including by the BRICS. An important part of the eastern alliances is President Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – or the new Silk Road, a massive multi-trillion yuan infrastructure and transport investments plan – spanning the world from east to west with several connecting “roads”, including maritime routes. This BRI plan, recently incorporated in China’s constitution – is the vanguard for a new economic system, based on equality and benefitting all partners – a clear departure from the western “carrot and stick” approach, i.e. ‘do as I say – or else’ – sanctions will follow.

Second, and this is the real challenge – countries like Iran, Venezuela, Russia, China – and all those nations that resist the west’s attempts to conquer, command and subdue them – have a strong so-called “Fifth Column”, open and covert infiltrated western or local and western-trained and funded ‘assets’. These people are usually embedded in the financial sector, especially the central banks and in trade related activities. They are the ‘recipients’ of the messages from the Hawks from Washington – they propagate them in Iran, bring people to the streets often by paying them – to make believe that there is a strong opposition to the government. 

They control the local media, publish false economic information – unemployment, inflation – and seek tightening investment links with the west. The Fifth Columnists, or Atlantists, are helping manipulating currency exchange rates, devaluations of their country’s – Iran’s – money; they are exaggerating the impact of sanctions at home to create fear and hostility against the government – in brief, they are weaponizing public opinion against their own government. They are collaborators with Iran’s enemies.

The Fifth Columnists are a dangerous, criminal and non-transparent alliance of opponents working for foreign interests, in Iran, as well as in Russia, Venezuela, China – and where ever the Washington hegemon and its dark deep masters want to bring about regime change. Neutralizing them is a huge challenge, as their activities are deeply rooted in their countries financial system, private banking and international trade. 

The best way of annihilating their nefarious impact is by applying the rules of Resistance Economy – breaking loose from the western dollar system, de-globalizing the economy, finding back to political and economic sovereignty – local production for local markets with local money and local public banking for the development of the local economy; and by trading with friendly, culturally and ideologically aligned countries. If the link to the globalized west is broken, their power is gone. Iran is on the right path – the future is in the East. The greed-driven aggressive west is committing economic and moral suicide – the west has become a sinking ship.

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This article was originally published on Fars News in Farsi.

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a water resources and environmental specialist. He worked for over 30 years with the World Bank and the World Health Organization around the world in the fields of environment and water. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research; ICH; RT; Sputnik; PressTV; The 21st Century; TeleSUR; The Vineyard of The Saker Blog, the New Eastern Outlook (NEO); and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance.


Towards a World War III Scenario: The Dangers of Nuclear War” 

by Michel Chossudovsky

Available to order from Global Research! 

ISBN Number: 978-0-9737147-5-3
Year: 2012
Pages: 102
Print Edition: $10.25 (+ shipping and handling)
PDF Edition:  $6.50 (sent directly to your email account!)

Michel Chossudovsky is Professor of Economics at the University of Ottawa and Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), which hosts the critically acclaimed website www.globalresearch.ca . He is a contributor to the Encyclopedia Britannica. His writings have been translated into more than 20 languages.

Reviews

“This book is a ‘must’ resource – a richly documented and systematic diagnosis of the supremely pathological geo-strategic planning of US wars since ‘9-11’ against non-nuclear countries to seize their oil fields and resources under cover of ‘freedom and democracy’.”
John McMurtry, Professor of Philosophy, Guelph University

“In a world where engineered, pre-emptive, or more fashionably “humanitarian” wars of aggression have become the norm, this challenging book may be our final wake-up call.”
-Denis Halliday, Former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations

Michel Chossudovsky exposes the insanity of our privatized war machine. Iran is being targeted with nuclear weapons as part of a war agenda built on distortions and lies for the purpose of private profit. The real aims are oil, financial hegemony and global control. The price could be nuclear holocaust. When weapons become the hottest export of the world’s only superpower, and diplomats work as salesmen for the defense industry, the whole world is recklessly endangered. If we must have a military, it belongs entirely in the public sector. No one should profit from mass death and destruction.
Ellen Brown, author of ‘Web of Debt’ and president of the Public Banking Institute   

WWIII Scenario

Tibet and the Hidden History of The Dalai Lama

September 18th, 2018 by Max Parry

This past week the 14th Dalai Lama, Tibet’s 83-year old self-declared spiritual leader in exile, made controversial remarks at a press conference in Malmö recognizing the 80th anniversary of the founding of Individual Humanitarian Aid, a Swedish development and philanthropic assistance program that took in Buddhist refugees after the Chinese annexed Tibet in 1959. His comments came as he addressed the European migrant crisis and his choice of words immediately sparked criticism because they seemed to express an attitude typically shared by the European Union’s far right. With the exception of his detractors, the views he expressed to most were unexpected coming from a monk known for preaching enlightenment and inner peace around the globe. “His Holiness”, AKA Tenzin Gyatso, stated:

“Recently large numbers of refugees, many from the Middle East, have fled to Europe in fear for their lives. They have been given shelter and support, but the long-term solution should include providing training and education, particularly for their children, so they can return to rebuild their own countries when peace has been restored.

I think Europe belongs to the Europeans. … Receive them, help them, educate them … but ultimately they should develop their own country.”

The comments occurred in Sweden on the heels of the country’s own shocking general election results which saw an impressive 18% performance made by the anti-immigrant and right-wing populist party, Sweden Democrats. Their third-place finish took place in the midst of a surge of far right nationalist political gains trending across the EU. Sweden itself has taken in tens of thousands of refugees during the influx of immigration in the last few years, a number which the Sweden Democrats have declared they want to halve and 60% of the public in polls wish to see lowered. Unlike far rightists in Eastern Europe or Greece’s Golden Dawn, the Sweden Democrats are part of a slick and optical re-branding of ultra nationalism that emphasizes Islamophobia over anti-Semitism, with other examples such as Ukip and France’s Front National. This pragmatic approach has not gone unpunished, however, as Viktor Orban of Hungary just saw his country slapped with sanctions by the European Parliament for enacting measures restricting immigration as the clash between anti-globalists and neo-liberal ‘inclusive capitalists’ appears to be escalating.

The remarks upset many of the Dalai Lama’s adoring fans as he knowingly or unwittingly appeared to be dog-whistling to their supporters. Still, this isn’t the first time the Tibetan leader has expressed such views. Along with singing praises for India’s Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in 2016 he stated that Germany had “too many refugees” during an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

In addition to demonstrating an oblivious lack of understanding about the migrant crisis, the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner’s statements shocked many of his admirers, especially considering his own status as a refugee residing in India for more than 50 years. To his critics they served as further testimony to a hidden history largely unknown to his naive followers and a summation of his actual nationalist views —after all despite his refugee status, his entire political history has been based around returning to power in Tibet. In the West, he has been given the persona of a ‘simple Buddhist monk’ by the political establishment and Hollywood, cloaking his own past as a theocratic despot who speaks for a dominant class within Tibet that has collaborated with the interests of imperialism against China for more than fifty years.

The political author and critic Michael Parenti has written at length about the oppressive social system that existed in Tibet prior to the Chinese liberation in his 2003 essay Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth. The Dalai (“ocean” in Mongolian) Lamas are believed to be reincarnations of the Buddha of Compassion, or manifestations in a lineage of the Bodhisattva (“enlightenment being”).

It was the Mongol invasion of Tibet in the 13th century during the Yuan dynasty where Tibetan Buddhism first spread throughout Asia and for the next six centuries was the state religion of both the Ming and Qing dynasties. Following the disintegration of China’s last imperial dynasty, from 1912-1933 Tibet was an absolute monarchy under his predecessor the 13th Dalai Lama. During his brief tenure as the head of state until he was a mere 24 years old, the 14th Dalai Lama was not a democratically-elected leader but selected by a committee of elite lamas (priests of Tibetan Buddhism) following an extensive search guided by their religious beliefs just like those which preceded him. Under his brief but ultra-wealthy reign, Tibet was a remotely isolated and poor country for the vast majority of its population which mostly consisted of illiterate slaves and serfs who were treated like rental cars by overlords, resembling a Buddhist version of the Gulf State kingdoms more than any peaceful paradise. While presiding over a brutal caste system, the Dalai Lama lived in a 1000-room estate with a personal army at his disposal to hunt down deserters. Parenti writes:

“The theocracy’s religious teachings buttressed its class order. The poor and afflicted were taught that they had brought their troubles upon themselves because of their wicked ways in previous lives. Hence they had to accept the misery of their present existence as a karmic atonement and in anticipation that their lot would improve in their next lifetime. The rich and powerful treated their good fortune as a reward for, and tangible evidence of, virtue in past and present lives.

The Tibetan serfs were something more than superstitious victims, blind to their own oppression. As we have seen, some ran away; others openly resisted, sometimes suffering dire consequences. In feudal Tibet, torture and mutilation — including eye gouging, the pulling out of tongues, hamstringing, and amputation — were favored punishments inflicted upon thieves, and runaway or resistant serfs.”

During the Cold War, interest in Tibetan Buddhism worldwide grew dramatically and so did a mainstream version of it in the West. This was supplied by an idealized and exoticized utopian portrayal of the Himalayas and the country akin to the imaginary ‘Shangri-La’ from the novel Lost Horizon, while Western media agencies promoted the ‘Free Tibet’ cause promoted by movie stars and popular musicians.
Buddhism’s appealing teachings have led to the perception by many that it is exempt from the ugly history attributed to other major religions, but as we can see with modern examples such as the persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar this is untrue— it has been used to justify various forms of oppression (including slavery) throughout its history just like other organized religions.
Western buddhism became popularized after the establishment of teaching centers during the New Age movement of the 1970s but most of what people in the West know about Tibet is through its depiction in Hollywood, where he has been courted in the silver screen community by everyone from Martin Scorsese to Richard Gere. At the same time, the source of where Hollywood has pulled its superficial understanding of Tibet is from the 1952 book Seven Years in Tibet authored by Austrian mountain climber Heinrich Harrer which aggrandized the feudal government.

Harrer as an SS officer (left) and later with the Dalai Lama (right).

It turns out that Harrer wasn’t just any mountaineer but a member of the Sturmabteilung Nazi paramilitary and an SS officer, even meeting with Adolf Hitler after his expedition team successfully climbed the Eiger North Face in the Swiss Alps.

In 1939, Harrer traveled in an expedition to the Himalayas to climb the Nanga Parbat peak, one of the world’s ten highest mountains but he was subsequently interned in India by British troops when the European theatre of WWII broke out. Harrer managed to escape to nearby Tibet where his knowledge of the native language led to a salaried employment in the Tibetan government and role as the Dalai Lama’s personal English tutor — in other words, Kundun’s introduction to the Western-world was through a member of Hitler’s Storm Detachment. After the communist Chinese took over, Harrer returned to Europe to write about his experiences and the book became an international best-seller. In 1997, Hollywood made a film version of his account starring Brad Pitt.

Heinrich Harrer with Hitler.

Harrer’s experiences weren’t the only instance of historical encounters between the Nazis and Tibet. During the 1930s, along with the occult European fascists had a bizarre fascination with Asian mysticism. They admired the Tibetan Kingdom with its feudal pecking order and wide-ranging use of torture, mutilation, and the death penalty. In 1938, the Germans led a scientific expedition headed by animal biologist and SS officer Ernst Schafer under the patronage of Heinrich Himmler’s Nazi think tank, the SS Ancestral Heritage Society, which promoted racist pseudo-scientific research. While the voyage happened under the pretext of strategic military purposes against the British, it was also intended to validate Himmler’s racial theory that Aryans of unmixed ancestry had previously settled in the Himalayas. During their investigation, the Germans conducted cranial measurements of human skulls and bones obtained from Tibetan graves with the intent to find evidence supporting Himmler’s ideas that they would be of German ancestry. The Nazi Party’s appropriation of the swastika, a symbol connected to the caste system of Ancient India, was also based on this false idea. Schafer returned with his ‘findings’ just a month prior to the German invasion of Poland in 1939.

Photo of Ernst Schafer’s expedition in Lhasa, Tibet from the German Federal Archives.

One of the Dalai Lama’s biggest talking points has been his supposed “commitment to non-violence.” This apparently does not apply to his own practices, where for years during the Cold War he participated in a covert program of the CIA which personally gave him an annual salary of $180,000 as it promoted the Tibetan independence movement, authorized by the same committee which green-lighted the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. Not only did the CIA aid his escape to India, but the program also involved subsidizing a Tibetan guerilla movement based in Nepal waging a violent campaign against the Chinese.

The program only ended in 1972 when the Nixon administration opted for détente with China under the foreign policy direction of Henry Kissinger. The Dalai Lama regretfully admitted to this decision in his auto-biography Freedom in Exile, but claimed he didn’t initially know of the agreement made with the CIA that was approved by his brothers . However, he avoided mentioning his presence on the CIA payroll proven by declassified documents and his representatives have denied awareness of it since. The Chinese have long claimed that the Tibetan independence movement was a cause under the influence of foreign powers and it appears by his own admission this is true.

The Dalai Lama with CIA-sponsored Tibetan guerillas.

China’s so-called ‘occupation’ of Tibet, while certainly not free of flaws (especially during the Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward), nevertheless ended a brutal feudal and theocratic system and began a process of industrialization that continues to this day.

Prior to 1959, much of Tibet did not even have running water or electricity, much less modern housing or healthcare. The introduction of non-religious education, reformation of the previous severe tax system, and abolishment of slavery and serfdom has lifted much of Tibet out of deep impoverishment and raised its standard of living. Even if one feels that the Chinese need to be more tolerant of its traditional culture or recognize its right to self-determination, the idea that this process should involve returning absolute authority to the Dalai Lama is self-appointed and not the wishes of most Tibetans.

The Chinese to their credit since have given greater autonomy to Tibetans after reforms in the 1970s and to this day Buddhism is still practiced widely by its people and tolerated by the authorities. In fact, each year on March 28 Tibetans widely celebrate a Serfs Emancipation Day holiday to commemorate their liberation from theocracy. Tibet had been unified with China for many centuries and was not an independent state for the majority of its history — not only did the PRC free a slave kingdom from social injustice but from its influence under colonial powers who had used it as a chess piece to undermine China.

The architect of the Cold War, the U.S. diplomat and historian George F. Kennan, exposed the orientalist goals of imperialism towards China in his infamous PPS23 Memo when addressing the Far East:

“We have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population. This disparity is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction.”

Coincidentally, the migrant crisis has occurred alongside the modern equivalent of Kennan’s theory of containment in Obama’s failed “pivot to East Asia” regional strategy. Foreign policy toward East Asia under Obama saw the U.S. accelerate its military presence with aircraft carriers in forward deployment, increased presence of combat troops and naval access surrounding China. The U.S. is desperately trying to halt the rise of China on the global stage with its booming economy — journalist and filmmaker John Pilger’s The Coming War on China is an excellent documentary and cinematic exploration of this topic in what appears to be an increasing drive towards WWIII with Beijing. Just as it did throughout the Cold War with Tibet, U.S. media is also stepping up its propaganda campaign by exaggerating the plight of the Uyghur Muslim Turkic minority by falsely claiming they are being interned in concentration camps by the Chinese government.

The Dalai Lama’s comments have provoked a predictable reaction from the very liberals who have championed his cause as an instance of betrayal of their shared cosmetic values. This is emblematic of the entire political climate since the 2008 financial crash which preceded the migrant crisis that the centrist political establishment has done everything within its power to downplay its inseparable connection. The financial collapse is what opened up political space for new, radical ideas and that included a surge of interest in both far left and far right political organizations which spoke directly to the working class, from Occupy Wall Street to the Tea Party. Liberals continue to express faux-outrage at developments of which their failed policies are responsible, while at the same time offering no alternative or solution except doubling-down on the same empty strategies.

While the Stop the War co-founder Jeremy Corbyn has become the leader of the UK’s Labour Party, democratic socialist Senator Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in the United States, and the disappointing SYRIZA coalition was elected in Greece, it is the far right which has made the greatest gains in response to the failures of capitalism. In 2016, it saw both the election of Donald Trump in the U.S. who campaigned pledging to build a wall on the Southern border and 17 million Brits voting to leave the European Union. Sadly, it is inevitable that their attempts to save capitalism from itself by restricting immigration and imposing tariffs will prove to be ineffectual as Keynesian economics. The real problem lies not with immigration or the demise of the nation state by globalism, but with increasing global inequality and the free market’s relentless drive to extract wealth and resources through imperial conquest of smaller nations, the actual cause of the migrant crisis.

The political establishment is now fighting for its life as it outright denies the interdependence of failing global markets with the crisis, all the while fear-mongering the public in its efforts to reform capitalism under the phony banner of ‘inclusivity’, even as its very policies fuel the increase in xenophobia scapegoating the immigrants it claims to want to protect. These policies not only include the implementation of economic austerity, but military intervention abroad with support for jihadist-dominated uprisings and its failed ‘War on Terror’ in the Middle East which destabilized the region and fueled the wave of migrants seeking asylum in the EU. Much has been written about the contribution of migration and endless war to the Roman Empire’s collapse — it seems the same cards are in the deck for the United States and its hegemony.

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Max Parry is an independent journalist and geopolitical analyst. His work has appeared in publications such as The Greanville Post, OffGuardian, Global Research, CounterPunch, Dissident Voice, Signs of the Times, and more. Read him on Medium. Max may be reached at [email protected]

All images in this article are from the author.

From inception, Russiagate was and remains a colossal scam, perhaps the most shameful political chapter in America’s history, McCarthyism on steroids.  

Robert Mueller never should have been appointed special counsel. His conflicts of interest alone should have disqualified him.

Anti-Trump fifth column Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed him to probe “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump, and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

Endless months of House, Senate, and Mueller probes found no evidence of Trump team/Russia collusion.  

Sacked Peter Strzok led special counsel Mueller’s witch-hunt Russiagate investigation for the FBI. Text messages between him and former senior agency lawyer Lisa Page showed anti-Trump sentiment.

According to the UK Daily Mail, the Hill, Fox News, and other media, Page admitted in earlier closed-door House Judiciary and Oversight Committees testimony that no evidence suggested Trump team/Russia collusion before Mueller’s appointment as special counsel — showing he never should have been appointed.

Daily Mail, September 17, 2018

In response to Rep. John Ratcliffe asking about text messages she and Strzok exchanged in May 2017 before Mueller’s appointment, she admitted that months of FBI investigative work found no evidence of Trump team/Russian collusion or meddling.

“It’s a reflection of us still not knowing,” she said, adding “it still existed in the scope of possibility that there would be literally nothing” to connect Trump, his team, and Russia no matter what Mueller or other investigative work might try to prove otherwise.

Separately Page said:

“As far as May of 2017, we still couldn’t answer the question.”

These remarks alone exposed the Russiagate scam. No justification existed to initiate the witch-hunt probe.

Page was the lead FBI lawyer involved in trying to prove a Trump team/Russia connection, beginning in summer 2016. She and Strzok transitioned the agency’s probe to Mueller’s involvement as special counsel, assuming his position on May 17, 2017.

After 16 months of trying to make a case against Trump and Russia, he found no evidence of collusion or Kremlin election meddling because none exists – no matter how long the deplorable witch-hunt continues.

In its weekend report, Fox News headlined “Lisa Page testimony: Collusion still unproven by time of Mueller’s special counsel appointment.”

The Hill headlined “Lisa Page bombshell: FBI couldn’t prove Trump-Russia collusion before Mueller appointment.”

The London Daily Mail headlined “Former FBI attorney Lisa Page admits the agency could NOT prove collusion between Trump and Russia before the appointment of Mueller as special counsel in bombshell testimony.”

The Washington Examiner headlined “Lisa Page testified investigators had no proof of collusion when Robert Mueller was appointed: Report.”

A transcript of Page’s earlier closed-door testimony obtained by Fox News quoted her saying, along with what was quoted above, the following:

“(I)n the scheme of the possible outcomes, the most serious one obviously being crimes serious enough to warrant impeachment; but on the other scale that, you know, maybe an unwitting person was, in fact, involved in the release of information, but it didn’t ultimately touch any senior, you know, people in the administration or on the campaign. And so the text just sort of reflects that spectrum.”

Separately, Rep. Ratcliffe told Fox News he “cannot provide the specifics of a confidential interview,” adding:

“But I can say that Lisa Page left me with the impression, based on her own words, that the lead investigator of the Russian collusion case, Peter Strzok, had found no evidence of collusion after nearly a year” of trying to uncover some.

On May 18, 2017, the day after Mueller’s appointment as special counsel, Strzok text-messaged Page saying: “(Y)ou and I both know the odds are nothing. If I thought it was likely I’d be there no question. I hesitate in part because of my gut sense and concern there’s no big there there.”

The FBI sacked Strzok — not because of unacceptable conduct, because his actions became a public embarrassment to the agency. He became damaged goods. Page resigned before being sacked.

In January, Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz issued a damning report on FBI and DOJ dysfunctional and unaccountable actions throughout the probe into Hillary’s private server use for official State Department business.

Horowitz said Strzok’s text messages and actions were “not only indicative of a biased state of mind but, even more seriously, implie(d) a willingness to take official action to impact the presidential candidate’s electoral prospects,” adding:

The Russiagate probe “potentially indicated or created the appearance that investigative decisions were impacted by bias or improper considerations.”

At the time, Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said

“(t)he IG report has destroyed the credibility of the Department of Justice and the FBI.”

Exposure of their wrongdoing should have ended the Russiagate witch-hunt probe straightaway – what never should have been initiated in the first place, amounting to McCarthyism on steroids.

It continues with no end point in prospect, perhaps for the duration of Trump’s tenure.

It’s an endless campaign to delegitimize and smear him for the wrong reasons, not the right ones — along with waging political, economic, and propaganda war on Russia, heading toward things turning hot if dark forces in Washington push things too far.

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Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected].

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

The Dutch Investigation into Flight MH17 and Kiev’s Veto

September 18th, 2018 by Prof. Kees van der Pijl

Towards Kiev’s Veto 

The Dutch government, soon to be given charge of the investigation, ruled out any dealings with the insurgency. After foreign secretary Timmermans at the UN called local volunteers ‘thugs’ on 21 July, falsely accused them of robbing the victims’ corpses, the option of negotiating with the insurgents was effectively closed. Although the Dutch government later apologised, contact was now only possible via the OSCE. A Dutch public prosecution team did fly to Ukraine, but it remained in Kiev to discuss matters with the coup government. Australian experts on the other hand arrived at the scene of the disaster without delay, as did a Malaysian team led by prime minister Najib Razak. As noted, it received the Boeing’s black boxes from the insurgents without any fuss and passed them on to the Netherlands on the 22nd of July. When the recorders were forwarded to London for analysis, Kiev, apparently concerned they would reveal damaging information, claimed that the insurgents had manipulated them, something that is practically impossible. 

Meanwhile the regime’s troops were advancing in spite of a truce for an area of 40 kilometres around the crash site announced by Poroshenko. As the Infonapalm website of the fiercely anti-Russian interior ministry spokesman and NSDC  [National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine] member, Anton Gerashchenko, later reported, they took Debaltsevo ‘shortly after the tragic shoot down of flight MH17 by a Muscovite Surface to Air Missile’, and by July 28, were pushing further along a corridor to the high ground of Saur Mohyla that effectively separates the two insurgent provinces. Also on the 28th, one day after plans for deploying 11 Air Mobile brigade had been shelved, Timmermans was in Kiev to discuss security, because the crash site was under fire from the Ukrainian side. This chain of events cannot fail to prompt the suspicion that Kiev had something to hide, certainly after the regime refused to call a halt to the fighting when asked to do so.  

Already on the 23rd of July, the Dutch Safety Board (DSB, Onderzoeksraad voor Veiligheid, OVV) had negotiated an institution-to-institution (rather than state-to-state) agreement with Ukraine’s National Bureau of Air Accidents Investigation of (NBAAI), giving the Dutch the leading role in the technical investigation of the disaster. The agreement crucially included a clause about keeping information received by the investigation secret. On this condition Dutch and Australian officials gained access to the crash site on 31 July. However, what unfolded upon their arrival the next day only raised more questions. While searching an area considered safe (i.e., under Ukrainian control), the inspectors came under mortar fire from government positions. On 4 August, Kiev forces reportedly advanced further; Dutch-Australian repatriation teams returning from the crash site passed military columns moving in the opposite direction.  On 6 August, the Dutch investigators, who had been at the crash site barely 20 hours and covered an area of 3.5 out of 60 km2, retrieving some large pieces of wreckage, withdrew again without having inspected the crucial cockpit section or taking top soil samples. When local officials showed them photos of the co-pilot found strapped in his seat, whose shirt ‘looked like a sieve’, they were not interested although this was obviously highly significant information. They also refused to accept DNA samples when asked to sign for receipt, apparently to avoid any official dealings with the insurgency.  

Meanwhile a political crisis had erupted in Kiev when parliament refused to accept a budget intended to meet stringent IMF criteria and Svoboda and Klitschko’s UDAR (which supported the government in parliament) left the coalition. With the second tranche of the IMF’s $17.5 billion credit line blocked as a result, Yatsenyuk tendered his resignation on 25 July, arguing that he would no longer be able to pursue the war without new money: that would merely risk the ‘demoralisation of the spirits of those tens of thousands of people who are sitting not in this hall, but in trenches under bullets.’ The vice-premier responsible for the MH17 portfolio, Volodymyr Groysman, took over as interim head of government. Elections were announced for October. Though parliament rejected Yatsensuk’s resignation on the 31st, frontline fighters, alarmed about the governmental deadlock amidst rumours of a Russian invasion, were not appeased. 

On the 6th of August, the day Dutch investigators withdrew from the Grabovo crash site, paramilitary battalions staged threatening demonstrations in Kiev, raising the prospect of a new coup. The next day, 7 August, Andriy Parubiy, a key figure in the seizure of power and the civil war, unexpectedly resigned from the National Security and Defence Council. Though according to Wikipedia, he declined to comment on his motives ‘in time of war’, others reported that his ‘move [was] mostly provoked by the fact he did not get an extended ethnic cleansing overdrive in Eastern Ukraine, and had to endure a ceasefire’. There was, in fact, no ceasefire; even Poroshenko’s order for a local truce after the downing of MH17 had been ignored. However, the extremists were rampant and reining them in was increasingly urgent. This was the situation in which NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen turned up in Kiev on the 7th of August. Was it to ensure that, with the crucial NATO summit in Wales less than a month away (4-5 September), the narrative of ‘Putin’ as the new threat to the alliance would not be spoiled by Ukrainian ultras? Certainly the official reason offered—that the trip was about the NATO trust fund for the purchase of communication equipment—was not credible; that matter had already been settled  in June. Ukraine’s representative at NATO headquarters was tight-lipped, saying only that the trip would be extremely brief, a few hours at most. When Rasmussen landed, tanks were patrolling the streets of Kiev; whether to ward off a new coup d’état or consolidate the situation after averting one, we do not know. 

Gordon Hahn, a seasoned observer of the post-Soviet space, ventures to suggest that Parubiy may have calculated he was better out of government should the militias attempt a seizure of power; this is not incompatible with another suggestion that he stepped down to ‘focus on his work supporting the volunteer militias’. These suggestions, if held out, would bring us a step closer to why Rasmussen flew to Kiev, viz., to reinforce Poroshenko’s position amid coup threats and removing extremists like Parubiy from overall control of the armed forces. As Rasmussen declared on receiving the inevitable medal from the president, ‘We stand by Ukraine and your struggle to uphold the fundamental principles on which we have built our free societies.’ Unless it was routine rhetoric, this may well have been intended as a NATO endorsement of a president disobeyed by his troops and directly threatened by the most militant units.

Of course, much of this is conjecture, however suggestive, but there is more. Still on the same day, 7 August, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Australia agreed with Kiev on the format of the criminal investigation of the MH17 disaster through the Joint Investigation Team, under the proviso that the publication of any findings would require the consent of the four parties. (Malaysia was added later given its overwhelming stakes in the matter). This effectively removed the other seven countries that lost citizens in the MH17 disaster and which had been part of the preliminary consultations on the JIT, from any role in determining its further course. It also removed the investigation from the auspices of an EU institution, Eurojust in The Hague, by which the JIT had been formed. The Dutch public prosecution service (Openbaar Ministerie, OM) was entrusted with the coordination of the criminal investigation. 

Though Ukraine is not a member of Eurojust and there were no Ukrainians on the plane, the 7 August agreement not only brought Ukraine on board but, through the consent provision, also gave the Kiev government ‘an effective veto over any investigation results that attributed blame to them, an astonishing situation and probably without precedent in modern air crash investigations’. Ukraine now enjoyed a double indemnity: having absolved it from the responsibility of investigating the disaster, the West now handed it entirely unwarranted rights over the outcome of the investigation. Was this part of a deal in which Kiev removed Parubiy in return for immunity from prosecution over the downing of MH17, also saving the NSDC secretary personally from implication? It may be pertinent here that the acting Ukrainian Air Force commander at the time the Boeing was shot down, Lt. Gen. Serhiy Drozdov, was transferred to the reserve not long afterwards, without official explanation—only to be promoted to air force commander again in July 2015. 

When the notoriously loose-lipped public prosecutor of the Kiev regime, Yu. Boychenko, leaked news of the veto on 8 August, Ukraine’s press agency, UNIAN, concluded that this effectively exculpated Russia and the insurgents from responsibility. Why otherwise would Kiev have insisted on the veto? The Dutch government, too, only acknowledged the unanimity agreement after a Freedom of Information request by the magazine, Elsevier. The fact that the very same day, 7 August, forensic evidence from the crash site was already confidentially shared with the Ukrainian military, certainly highlights how concerned the rulers in Kiev were.

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Prof. Kees van der Pijl is fellow of the Centre for Global Political Economy and Emeritus Professor in the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex.


Flight MH17, Ukraine and the new Cold War

Title: Flight MH17, Ukraine and the New Cold War (Prism of disaster)

Author: Kees van der Pijl

ISBN: 978-1-5261-3109-6

Publisher: Manchester University Press

Pages: 208

Price: £18.99

Click here to order.

Palestinians Take #GazaToUN Through Social Media

September 18th, 2018 by Afro-Palestine Newswire Service

Frustrated by Israel’s 12-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, young Palestinians in the besieged coastal strip took to social media on Monday to communicate to the United Nations (UN) and the world the urgent need to lift the siege that has brought Gaza to the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.

Using the hashtag  #GazaToUN, Palestinians in Gaza were joined by Twitter users from across the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), Jordan, Lebanon, the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand –  and even South Africa –  to highlight how the Israeli siege has strangled Gaza’s economy, destroyed the health-care system and imprisoned almost 2 million Palestinians.

“We want the world to know and understand what it’s like to live in a cage,” explained Rana Shubeir, the campaign’s spokesperson in an interview with the Afro-Palestine Newswire Service.

On Monday, young Palestinian activists handed a message to UN representative, Gernot Sauer, at the launch of a social media campaign to raise awareness about the Israeli siege of  the Gaza Strip. (Photo: Middle East Monitor)

Over 53% of Palestinians in Gaza are unemployed due to the hermetic sealing of the area. Poverty and unemployment has worsened due to 18-hour power-cuts ordered by Israel. Ninety percent of the water is undrinkable, and much of Gaza’s infrastructure has been destroyed due to Israeli bombardment. Reconstruction has ground to a halt because of Israeli restrictions on cement and construction materials. Gaza’s hospitals suffer a severe shortage of medicine and lack of fuel for emergency power generators. Israel has also denied patients with chronic and serious diseases permission to access treatment outside Gaza.

“We are not seeking luxuries. Palestinians simply want a decent life: milk for our children, water fit for human use, enough electricity, medicine for patients, free movement, construction materials to rebuild our homes — and, most importantly, dignity and freedom,” explained Shubeir.

At the campaign launch on Monday, young activists handed a message to UN representative, Gernot Sauer. Sauer assured them that he would pass the message on to the UN General Assembly, and hailed the creative youth campaign to raise global awareness of the dire humanitarian situation. The UN has predicted that Gaza would be unliveable in 2 years if the siege is not lifted.

The campaign comes at a time when aid to Palestinians has been slashed by United States president Donald Trump, and the peace process is being destroyed by Israel with the assistance of the Trump administration.

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The Korean People Alone Must Decide on Their Future

September 18th, 2018 by Adam Garrie

A substantial portion of the discussions surrounding the ongoing Korean peace process is centred around issues stemming from the positions of the United States, China, Russia and Japan towards both Korean states. But while the historic relations of Korea with the superpowers including its two superpower neighbours and other members of the wider north east Asian community are relevant to present matters, as a sovereign people, only the Koreans themselves can decide the ultimate course of the peace process. The two existing Korean states should not continue to be artificially separated due to foreign sanctions, threats or diktats and nor should anyone force economic harmonisation against the will of the Korean people, even though it would appear that such models are increasingly favoured in both Pyongyang and Seoul. Instead, any such decisions regarding a peaceful future for Korea must be voluntary on the part of Koreans themselves.

While such sentiments may appear to be self-evident, the history of Korea’s artificial division is demonstrative of the fact that these basic principles were discarded in the 1940s and 50s. After the long Japanese occupation of Korea ended in 1945, the country was split into zones of occupation between the USSR and USA, much as Germany and Austria were split into separate zones of occupation after the Second World War ended in Europe.

As time wore on, the Soviets and Americans could not agree on the best way to implement a Korea wide election that would have established a new post-war government. As a result, rather than continue negotiations between the two superpowers at the newly formed United Nations, UN officials under the heavy influence of Washington instead allowed for a unilateral election to be held only in the US occupied portion of Korea (the south).  What transpired was a deeply controversial election in 1948, one marred by violence where the far-right strongman Syngman Rhee literally attacked leftist activists, voters and organisers in an election described by multiple international observers as deeply unsatisfactory.

Throughout 1948 and 1949, violence continued to foment in the south as rebellions grew against Syngman Rhee’s authoritarian leadership. In 1950, forces of the DPRK which also proclaimed its statehood in 1948, crossed into the south to relieve the Korean freedom fighters of the south, thus beginning a three year long war in Korea during which 2.5 civilians were killed or wounded.

While the Armistice of 1953 solidified the re-divided Korean peninsula with the 38th parallel being the dividing line, in the following year the Geneva Conference was held in order to determine the future of both Korea and French Indochina (the modern states of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia). While the conference was unable to make any progress in respect of Korea, it ironically set the stage for the partition of Vietnam on the 17th parallel with Ho Chi Minh’s communist Vietminh forces controlling the north and the western backed State of  Vietnam led by Ngo Dinh Diem forming in the south after Diem refused to hold countrywide elections- opting only to hold controversial elections in the south, thus repeating the geographically (and ideologically) unilateral approach of Syngman Rhee.

But while Vietnam reunited after 1975, the Korean people remain divided to this day. This is why it is crucial that the failures of the Geneva Conference of 1954 are not repeated in the present day Korean peace process. Since the early 1950s, both Korea states have matured into sovereign nations but nevertheless, the legacy of the division of Korea and the war the followed has led to many international players and the US in particular to seemingly taking for granted the fact that foreigners somehow have a unique role in determining the future of a single Korean race.

The warm embrace shared today between Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in as the South Korean President’s plane landed at Pyongyang’s airport is a helpful reminder that a people divided by foreigners can only be united through discussions and agreements among Koreans from both sides of the border.

Koreans on both sides of the 38th parallel were cheated of their self-determination by the hand of neo-imperialism in the 1940s and it is high time that those who think they can dictate to either Korean state realise that a permanent peace is only possible through ever more frequent north-south dialogue, the kind of which transpired today in Pyongyang.

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Adam Garrie is Director at Eurasia future. He is a geo-political expert who can be frequently seen on RT’s flagship debate show CrossTalk as well as Press-TV’s flagship programme ‘The Debate’. Garrie has also commented on geopolitical events on international television and radio in the United States, Lebanon, Russia, Pakistan, Germany, Britain and Ecuador. A global specialist with an emphasis on Eurasian integration, Garrie’s articles have been published in the Oriental Review, Asia Times, Geopolitica Russia, the Tasnim News Agency, Global Research, RT’s Op-Edge, Global Village Space and others.

I’m sitting at the splendid building of the Singapore National Library, in a semi-dark room, microfilm inserted into a high-tech machine. I’m watching and then filming and photographing several old Malaysian newspapers dating back from October 1965. 

These reports were published right after the horrible 1965 military coup in Indonesia, which basically overthrew the progressive President Sukarno and liquidated then the third largest Communist party on Earth, PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia). More than one million Indonesian people lost their lives in some of the most horrifying massacres of the 20th century. From a socialist (and soon to be Communist) country, Indonesia descended into the present pits of turbo-capitalism, as well as religious and extreme right-wing gaga.

The United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Holland and several other Western nations, directly sponsored the coup, while directing both the pro-Western treasonous factions in the military, as well as the religious leaders who stood, from the start, at the forefront of the genocide.

All this information is, of course, widely available in the de-classified archives of both the CIA and U.S. State Department. It can be accessed, analyzed and reproduced. I personally made a film about the events, and so have several other directors.

But it isn’t part of the memory of humanity. In Southeast Asia, it is known only to a handful of intellectuals.

In Malaysia, Singapore or Thailand, the Indonesian post-1965 fascism is a taboo topic. It is simply not discussed. “Progressive” intellectuals here are, like in all other ‘client’ states of the West, paid to be preoccupied with their sex orientation, with gender issues and personal ‘freedoms’, but definitely not with the essential matters (Western imperialism, neo-colonialism, the savage and grotesque forms of capitalism, the plunder of local natural resources and environment, as well as disinformation, plus the forcefully injected ignorance that is accompanied by mass amnesia) that have been shaping so extremely and so negatively this part of the world. 

In Indonesia itself, the Communist Party is banned and the general public sees it as a culprit, not as a victim.

The West is laughing behind the back of its brainwashed victims. It is laughing all the way to the bank.

Lies are obviously paying off.

No other part of the world has suffered from Western imperialism as much after WWII, as Southeast Asia did, perhaps with two exceptions, those of Africa and the Middle East.

In so-called Indochina, the West murdered close to ten million people, during the indiscriminate bombing campaigns and other forms of terror – in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The abovementioned Indonesian coup took at least 1 million human lives. 30% of the population of East Timor was exterminated by the Indonesian occupation, which was fully supported by the West. The Thai regime, fully subservient to the West, killed indiscriminately its leftists in the north and in the capital. The entire region has been suffering from extreme religious implants, sponsored by the West itself, and by its allies from the Gulf.

But the West is admired here, with an almost religious zeal.

The U.S., British and French press agencies and ‘cultural centers’ are spreading disinformation through local media outlets owned by subservient ‘elites’. Local ‘education’ has been devotedly shaped by Western didactic concepts. In places like Malaysia, Indonesia, but also Thailand, the greatest achievement is to graduate from university in one of the countries that used to colonize this part of the world.

Victim countries, instead of seeking compensation in courts, are actually admiring and plagiarizing the West, while pursuing, even begging for funding from their past and present tormentors.

Southeast Asia, now obedient, submissive, phlegmatic and stripped off the former revolutionary left-wing ideologies, is where the Western indoctrination and propaganda scored unquestionable victory.

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The same day, I turned on the television set in my hotel room, and watched the Western coverage of the situation in Idlib, the last stronghold of the Western-sponsored terrorists on Syrian territory.

Russia has called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting warning that the terrorists might stage a chemical attack, and then blame it, together with the West, on the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.

NATO battleships have been deployed to the region. There can be no doubt – it has been a ‘good old’ European/North American scenario at work, once again: ‘We hit you, kill your people, and then bomb you as a punishment’.

Imperialist gangsters then point accusative fingers at the victims (in this case Syria) and at those who are trying to protect them (Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, China). Just like in a kindergarten, or a primary school; remember? A boy hits someone from behind and then screams, pointing at someone else: “It was him, it was him!” Miraculously, until now, the West has always gotten away with this ‘strategy’, of course, at the cost of billions of victims, on all continents. 

That is how it used to be for centuries, and that is how it still works. That is how it will continue to be, until such terror and gangsterism is stopped.

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For years and decades, we were told that the world is now increasingly inter-connected, that nothing of great importance could happen, without it being immediately spotted and reported by vigilant media lenses, and ‘civil society’.

Yet, thousands of things are happening and no one is noticing.

Just in the last two decades, entire countries have been singled-out by North America and Europe, then half-starved to death through embargos and sanctions, before being finally attacked and broken to pieces: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya to mention just a few. Governments of several left-wing nations have been overthrown either from outside, or through their own, local, servile elites and media; among them Brazil, Honduras and Paraguay. Countless Western companies and their local cohorts are committing the unbridled plunder of natural resources in such places as Borneo/Kalimantan or the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), totally ruining tropical forests while murdering hundreds of species. 

Are we, as a planet, really inter-connected? How much do people know about each other, or about what is done to their brothers and sisters on different continents?

I have worked in some 160 countries, and I can testify without the slightest hesitation: ‘Almost nothing’. And: ‘Less and much less!’

The Western empire and its lies, has managed to fragment the world to previously unknown extremes. It is all done ‘in the open’, in full view of the world, which is somehow unable to see and identify the most urgent threats to its survival. Mass media propaganda outlets are serving as vehicles of indoctrination, so do cultural and ‘educational’ institutions of the West or those local ones shaped by the Western concepts. That includes such diverse ‘tools’ as universities, Internet traffic manipulators, censors and self-censored individuals, social media, advertisement agencies and pop culture ‘artists’.

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There is a clear pattern to Western colonialist and neo-colonialist barbarity and lies:

‘Indonesian President Sukarno and his closest ally the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) were trying to build a progressive and self-sufficient country. Therefore, they had to be stopped, government overthrown, party members massacred, PKI itself banned and the entire country privatized; sold to foreign interests. The overwhelming majority of Indonesians are so brainwashed by the local and Western propaganda that they still blame the Communists for the 1965 coup, no matter what the CIA archives say.’

Mossadegh of Iran was on the same, progressive course. And he ended up the same way as Sukarno. And the whole world was then charmed by the butcher, who was put to power by the West – the Shah and his lavish wife.

Chile in 1973, and thereafter, the same deadly pattern occurred, more evidence of how freedom-loving and democratic the West is.

Patrice Lumumba of Congo nationalized natural resources and tried to feed and educate his great nation. Result? Overthrown, killed. The price: some 8 million people massacred in the last two decades, or maybe many more than that (see my film: Rwanda Gambit). Nobody knows, or everyone pretends that they don’t know.

Syria! The biggest ‘crime’ of this country, at least in the eyes of the West, consisted of trying to provide its citizens with high quality of life, while promoting Pan-Arabism. The results we all know (or do we, really?): hundreds of thousands killed by West-sponsored murderous extremists, millions exiled and millions internally displaced. And the West, naturally, is blaming Syrian President, and is ready to ‘punish him’ if he wins the war.

Irrational? But can global-scale fascism ever be rational?

The lies that are being spread by the West are piling up. They overlap, often contradict one another. But the world public is not trained to search for the truth, anymore. Subconsciously it senses that it is being lied to, but the truth is so horrifying, that the great majority of people prefer to simply take selfies, analyze and parade its sexual orientation, stick earphones into its ears and listen to empty pop music, instead of fighting for the survival of humanity.

I wrote entire books on this topic, including the near 1,000-page : “Exposing Lies Of The Empire”.

This essay is just a series of thoughts that came to my mind, while I was sitting at a projector in a dark room of the Singapore National Library.

A rhetorical question kept materializing: “Can all this be happening?” “Can the West get away with all these crimes it has been committing for centuries, all over the world?”

The answer was clear: ‘But of course, as long as it is not stopped!”

And so, A luta continua!

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This article was originally published on New Eastern Outlook.

Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Three of his latest books are Revolutionary Optimism, Western Nihilism, a revolutionary novel “Aurora” and a bestselling work of political non-fiction: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire”. View his other books here. Watch Rwanda Gambit, his groundbreaking documentary about Rwanda and DRCongo and his film/dialogue with Noam Chomsky “On Western Terrorism”. Vltchek presently resides in East Asia and the Middle East, and continues to work around the world. He can be reached through his website and his Twitter.

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Hegemony Will No Longer Pay Off for the US

September 18th, 2018 by Global Times

The administration of US President Donald Trump will reportedly announce new tariffs on about $200 billion on Chinese imports. Meanwhile, Washington has invited Chinese officials to restart trade talks later this month.

While Washington extends a carrot to Beijing, it is also swinging a stick. It is nothing new for the US to try to escalate tensions so as to exploit more gains at the negotiating table. The unilateral and hegemonic moves by the US will meet firm countermeasures from China.

Against the backdrop of successive US offensives in the trade war, China will not just play defense. Nowadays economic and trade relations between China and the US are so closely connected that they will not be easily broken by unilateral hegemony. China will choose the most feasible means as countermeasures.

The trade war occurs at the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up. It is not only a challenge to the most important bilateral relationship in international politics of the past 40 years, but also a test for China to shape this relationship.

China has never taken this trade war as an interim one, but a protracted one. The trade war launched by Washington, which targets “made in China” products and the Chinese market, has had a big impact on the global production and supply chain. Global economic prospects dim under unilateral US actions.

China, as a main driving force of the global economy, is able to correct and push the global economy onto the right path. Domestically, China is undergoing steady and solid economic structural adjustments.

On the foreign front, it is accelerating its cooperation network by promoting the Belt and Road initiative. This will not only consolidate China’s ability to withstand the trade war, but also provide more choices for the future global economy.

After several rounds of trade war, China has realized that the US government intends to decrease trade and economic integration of the US and China. The US wants to reduce the challenges from potential rivals with its “make America great again” ambition. Meanwhile, it can adjust its China policy to gain an upper hand in areas such as politics and security.

The US still wants to shape Sino-US relations with its strength and consolidate its hegemony. However, today’s world will not be easily manipulated by hegemony. China will not passively be subject to the US maneuverings, nor will it allow any super power to achieve its end by peremptory means. It’s no longer the time when a country can achieve hegemonic dividends through coercion.

The trade war is in essence a conflict and rivalry between unilateralism and multilateralism. Internal contradictions in international relations have become sharper. The war will not only affect the trajectory of China-US trade relations, but also the existing global trading system rules and reforms. China will strengthen coordination and cooperation with all countries. China will explore ways to safeguard fairness and justice in the global economy, and will support free trade and the multilateral trading system.

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Just after midnight, in the first hour of September 28th, 1994, the passenger ferry MS Estonia sank in the Baltic Sea. It was sailing its regular route, from Tallinn in Estonia to the Swedish capital Stockholm. The vessel capsized and sank in less than an hour, in the end settling sideways on the ocean floor at 80 meters deep. The weather was rough, but nothing extraordinary for the time of year, with winds of 25 meters/second and waves of 4 to 6 meters. Of the 989 passengers and crew, 852 died, making it the biggest European maritime disaster since WW2. 501 of the dead were Swedes.

Just hours after the sinking, Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt was quick to try to control the narrative of what had happened. In a statement to the public, he announced that the sinking happened because the bow visor (the front part protecting the bow of the ship, which can be lifted up to allow the car ramp to be extended), had fallen off due to being pounded by the waves.

The same afternoon Bildt called the Swedish minister responsible for maritime affairs, saying the same thing, ‘There are no other explanations’. And he called Hans Laidwa from the Estline shipping agency, the owner of MS Estonia, telling him ‘The accident must have been caused by a construction error’.

A Joint Accident Investigation Commission (JAIC) was created the day after. The investigation quickly came to a preliminary conclusion only 18 days later: The bow visor fell off due to high waves and faulty locks, water flooded the car deck, the ferry became unstable, capsized and sank. That was also the commission’s final conclusion three years later.

As basis for this conclusion, JAIC pointed to several things. The bow visor was found one sea mile from the wreck. The wreck was examined and filmed by a diving team, finding clues that supported this conclusion.

But this hypothesis, which was so heavily promoted by the PM, decided how the investigation progressed. Information that didn’t fit didn’t get collected. The investigation started with a curious lack of interest in exploring other possibilities. Questions were left unanswered, theories not explored. It also influenced the technical investigation: Only the front part of the vessel was filmed, while the back part was not examined.

The questioning of the survivors was haphazard and the team mostly asked questions that would support this theory. Important information was lost forever.

A political decision was made not to raise the ferry. Technically, a salvage is feasible, and is a fairly common procedure in maritime investigations. When the ferry MS Herald of Free Enterprise sank in the English Channel in 1987, it was refloated and the bodies removed. A thorough examination of the MS Estonia would have helped in construction of new ferries, where potential weaknesses would have been identified. In normal airplane investigations, every last bit of wreckage is collected. The reason given was that the salvage operation would be too expensive, several hundred million Swedish kronor.

Position of MS Estonia

New information continuously questions the commission’s conclusions. Even during the inquiry, conflicting witness statements were consistently disregarded. The JAIC working theory was that the reason for the capsizing was that the bow doors were fully opened. But this was not observed by the only two surviving witnesses who were monitoring the bow. Two crew members, who watched the car ramp on a TV-monitor when the ferry started to capsize and sink, stated that it was not wholly open, but that water came in along the edges. Loud bangs were heard by passengers. The commission declares that these sounds must have come from when the bow visor came off.

Another question left unanswered, was how water flowed from the car deck to the lower deck, which supposedly was sealed. If only the car deck was flooded, the ferry would probably, despite sloppy safety precautions, have been able to stay afloat.

Concrete sarcophagus

Prime Minister Bildt said Sweden would do everything possible to recover the bodies (and implied, not raising the ship). It was later known that this was on advice from Commander Emil Svensson. Both men have connections to the black op submarine hunt in the 1980ies, where supposed Soviet submarines over period of a decade continuously violated neutral Swedish territorial waters, leading to massive and well-publicized Swedish anti-submarine hunts. Bildt was a right wing MP fanning this hysteria. Cables released from WikiLeaks reveals that he in the 1970s gave confidential information from government negotiations to his contact in the US embassy. Svensson was the leader of the Swedish Naval Analysis Unit during the submarine hunts.

Several years later, high ranking US and NATO senior officials, like former British navy minister, Sir Keith Speed, and Caspar Weinberger, former US Secretary of Defense, admitted that submarines from NATO-countries were responsible for these violations. The whole thing was a psychological operation, in cooperation with a right wing clique in the Swedish military. The exercise was designed to push Sweden closer to the NATO-camp and embarrass Social Democratic Prime Minister Olof Palme’s attempts to create a detente between East and West in the Cold War.

The next (social democratic) government proposed burying the wreck in a sarcophagus, at a cost of several hundred million Swedish kronor. Entombed for all eternity, the wreck would be covered in gravel, then with concrete mats. It would seal the graves, but also make future investigations impossible. The project got cancelled after furious protest from relatives of the deceased, as an undignified solution, but only after part of the gravel had been put in place, at a cost of 200 million Swedish kronor.

The military and the intelligence services hinders insight

At the time, there were plenty of rumours of contraband smuggling. A survivor saw military personnel close off the Tallinn terminal and load on two trucks at the last minute before departure. This clue could have been investigated by the commission, by thoroughly checking the vehicles in the ferry. But this was not done. The divers did not even enter the car deck.

The 90s was a chaotic decade for Russia and the Baltic States. Everything was for sale, and everything was possible. The Soviet, now Russian, army was in the process of withdrawing from the Baltic, and a demoralized Russia was a bonanza for Western spies looking for military technology. During the Cold War, Sweden had often been used as a conduit between East and West, officially neutral, although heavily leaning towards the US/UK. The country has an influential military-industrial complex, often involved in shady deals to sell weapons around the world. Swedish intelligence cooperated closely with NATO in things such as code breaking, human intelligence and signal intelligence against the Soviet Union.

Later, it became known that MS Estonia had been used for sensitive military transports, in fact only weeks before the incident.  A whistleblower working in the Swedish customs later testified that several trucks were let through with no questions asked, on MS Estonia’s journeys the 14th  and 20th  of September, just one and two weeks before the incident.

People who might have had something to say, died. A former Estonian customs official, Igor Kristopovitsch, who now ran company dealing with sensitive transports, including on the MS Estonia, was shot on the October 22nd, four weeks after incident.

Later, an Estonian inquiry, found that the material smuggled on the 14th  and 20th of September was analyzed by Sweden’s Forsvarets Radioanstalt, their military signal intelligence unit, making it likely that the material was advanced Soviet materials, maybe connected to nuclear or satellite guidance.

Sören Lindman, Swedish consul in Riga at the time, and also formerly in military intelligence, gave his opinion, that «people in Swedish intelligence helped foreign intelligence get material from Russia via Sweden to a third country. If it is UK or US, I won’t speculate. » As a reward for helping the transit, Sweden got to have a peek at the goods.

Ingrid Sandquist, then leader of the customs department at Arlanda airport in Stockholm, later told of a mystery plane loading cartons just a few days after MS Estonia sank. Certain defense shipments can be left out of normal customs clearing if necessary, but she found the plane odd, even though her superior officers showed particular interest to make sure everything went smoothly. She chose to ask them about the plane, and they, on their own initiative, pointed out that it had nothing to do with MS Estonia, a statement that she found unusual.

Inquiries finding no fault

Several inquiries were later made. The Hirschfeld inquiry in 2005 was to investigate if the Swedish military was involved in smuggling of weapons on the MS Estonia. The result were as expected, Hirschfeld stated in his brief report that ‘nothing has been found that made him presume’ that anything was smuggled. But to be noted, he destroyed all his investigative material and papers, making future evaluations of his work impossible.

An inquiry was finished in 2008 to see if the conclusion from the original commission was correct. Using drawings of the ferry and data simulations – but not investigating the wreck itself – it came to the conclusion that the original commission was correct, and that there were no further holes in the hull.

Other possibilities

Did the clandestine cargo contribute directly to the accident? It would explain the secrecy, the disinterested commission and the haste to draw conclusions.  Several hypotheses are possible, from the relatively innocuous to the directly disconcerting.

Maybe the ferry did lose its bow, but the sensitive cargo made it important to hide certain facts. Or the cargo contained explosives which blew a hole in the hull. If that was the case, it would explain why the commission wasn’t particularly interested in looking for other holes in the ship. It would certainly also destroy careers and the country’s reputation if revealed.

At the time of the incident, conservative Prime Minster Bildt had just lost the election on September 18th and was still in the interim period before Social Democrat Ingvar Carlsson would take over a few weeks later. Bildt has a high interest and involvement in security and intelligence questions. Was the government hurrying to finish these transports before Carlson took over, and did Bildt have personal knowledge of the transports?

The veteran journalist Lars Borgnäs, in his book Nationens Interesse, tells of an even more sinister explanation. He got a call from a man who claimed he worked in military intelligence. The man didn’t want to identify himself, but Borgnäs finds the conversation interesting enough to include in his book. He had by mistake seen a classified report from Must, the Swedish military intelligence service. To sum up what he saw: The smuggling operation had to be aborted because they feared customs were waiting for them in Sweden. The smugglers tried to open the bow to drive the trucks out, but failed. A decision was made to instead sink MS Estonia with torpedoes. Noise transmitters were put out to hinder recording of what happened, but the Swedish navy recorded everything on their underwater microphones. The submarine in question would be from a NATO-country.

The wreck site is classified as a graveyard, and it is illegal to dive there. Nevertheless, a diving expedition led by Jutta Rabe took samples from the hull and had them chemically analyzed at several laboratories.

“The results show changes to the metal similar to those seen by high-detonation velocity,” one report concluded.

We will probably never know what really happened to MS Estonia. The cover-up has been successful. Even though one suspects that something is not right, the intelligence services and the military are generally good at keeping secrets. If something other than the official conclusion happened, the ones responsible will die in their beds as old and respected men, taking their story with them.

MS Estonia is not a unique case. Keep her in mind next time you see any official inquiry. If military or intelligence services (US, NATO, Swedish or any other) have a stake in the case, chances are you will not hear the truth.

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This article was originally published on the author’s blog site: Midt i fleisen.

Terje Maloy is an Australian/Norwegian translator and blogger.  The article is Creative Commons 4.0. The article relied in particular on the book Nationens Interesse by L. Borgnäs

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Remember the famous 1956 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers? It was produced to show the American public just how terrible Communism was. The movie’s ‘fear card’ was played by having the pods suck away knowledge, along with the very essence of one’s individualism… as the victim slept. Upon awakening they became apathetic, with no passion or rational thinking mechanisms… just automatons [a moving mechanical device made in imitation of a human being]. The main character in the film became almost insane with a frenetic drive to stay awake and escape his city filled with these creatures. At film’s end, he does escape the town, but, as he is telling his story to the authorities, we see trucks driving down the highway filled with more and more pods.

The pods in today’s Amerika have been replaced by the Kool-Aid that so many of our neighbors are drinking regularly. The schools falsely teach our young that Amerika’s so called democracy is predicated on a two party system that is divided on most, if not all, key issues and ideals. We have the Republican ‘right wing’ Kool-Aid and the Democratic ‘phony progressive’ Kool-Aid. Our mainstream media has been drinking it for decades! All we can receive thru the boob tube, regardless of what channel, is the dribble to make us think that ‘Column A’ is different from ‘Column B’. This writer engages friends and acquaintances with rhetorical questions like “What’s the difference between these two parties and their candidates?” The walking zombies repeat whatever clichés they have memorized from the pundits that they follow on air or in print. The right wing responses are tinged with inborn racism and America First arrogance. The phony progressive responses are always to ‘Feel the pain’ of the oppressed and support any ‘lesser of two evils’ to stop the right wing. And on and on it goes!

The Amerikan public has been ‘dumbed down’ for  a few successive generations. Anyone under 50 has been affected by this. The newspapers that we baby boomers used to read for hard news and balanced opinion have been taken over by what Paul Craig Roberts calls the Presstitutes. You won’t be able to read someone like Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill in a mainstream paper.

You get either right wing or phony progressive columnists who do the bidding of this Military Industrial Empire. On a channel like C-Span you get a preponderance of forums and panel discussions that for 99% of the time make the public believe that our empire is democratic and our system has proper ‘checks and balances’. When will you tune in and see Michel Chossudovsky, Patrice Greanville, Ray McGovern, Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, Dr Michael Parenti, John Pilger or Ed Curtin (to name but a few) invited on these think tank forums? How many of our friends and neighbors even understand that, as Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein elaborated in the 2016 campaign, over 54% of our federal taxes goes for military spending? Tell that to the folks in Flint Michigan (home of Michael Moore, who now supports the ‘lesser of two evils’) as to why there are no federal funds to help them get safer drinking water and clean, toxic free pipes.

The empire’s pods have subjugated our populace into believing in this Amerikan Exceptionalism. This then allows it to get away with phony pre-emptive wars and occupations. It allows corporations to keep creating dead end jobs with bum paychecks, and union busting of whatever decent and secure work is still available. Worst of all, as mentioned above, the pods have turned many of us into either ‘Good Germans’ or an unaware and uncaring consumer culture. In the old days at the health club or gym, folks would engage in discourse and debate of current affairs issues etc. Now, most of the members of these clubs walk around with their ears plugged into some electronic gadget, oblivious to anyone there. Isn’t progress great? One could only imagine how George Orwell would comment if he were around today in Amerika. Just remember not to fall deep asleep at night.

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Philip A Farruggio is a son and grandson of Brooklyn, NYC longshoremen. He has been a free lance columnist since 2001, with over 400 of his work posted on sites like Global Research, Greanville Post, Off Guardian, Consortium News, Information Clearing House, Nation of Change, World News Trust, Op Ed News, Dissident Voice, Activist Post, Sleuth Journal, Truthout and many others. His blog can be read in full on World News Trust, whereupon he writes a great deal on the need to cut military spending drastically and send the savings back to save our cities. Philip has a internet interview show, ‘It’s the Empire… Stupid’ with producer Chuck Gregory, and can be reached at [email protected].

On September 14, thousands of people participated in Turkish-backed demonstrations across the militant-held parts of the provinces of Idlib, Lattakia and Aleppo in northwestern Syria to protest against a potential fully-fledged offensive by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies as well as to show its support to the Turkish policy in the region. These events, which took place in more than two dozen towns and villages, were widely covered by the mainstream media as a show-case of the democracy and the resistance to the bloody Assad dictatorship.

However, they accidentally forgot to mention that the largest demonstrations took place under flags of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda), al-Qaeda and other similar radical groups, included chanting of sectarian slogans and mostly consisted of members of Idlib militant groups and persons linked to them. Multiple masked and armed militants were presented. The demonstration in Idlib city de-facto turned into the march of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

Demonstrators used various banners slamming the Syrian-Iranian-Russian alliance and even threatening Russia with terrorist attacks. For example, in Kafr Jales, the democratic activists raised a large banner with Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş – a Turkish terrorist, who killed Russia’s ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov in 2016. With such people we will win … The Turks are our brothers,” the banner’s text said.

It is interesting to note that a day ahead of the demonstrations, on September 13, Huthaifa Azzam, a son of Al-Qaeda co-founder Abdullah Azzam, called on members of militant groups to avoid using radical flags because the international media may mention them in its coverage.

On September 15, the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) deployed six battle tanks, ten armoured vehicles and a command vehicle at its observation posts in Shir Maghar and Eshtabraq in the Idlib de-escalation zone. Previously, the TAF deployed battle tanks at its observation post in Murak.

Deployments of the TAF military equipment, the demonstrations, the angled coverage of the situation in the MSM and multiple claims by the US and its allies, that they will attack Syria if some chemical weapons incident is reported, are a part of the ongoing campaign aimed at preventing the SAA and its allies from delivering a final blow to the terrorists hiding in Idlib. In this very situation, Turkey and the US-led bloc share the goal to rescue Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and similar groups in order to keep alive the militarized opposition to the Damascus government in northwestern Syria.

On September 16, a spokesman for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), officially announced that the YPG will not participate in the expected SAA operation in Idlib province. He added that the Kurdish group will continue carrying out attacks on Turkey-led forces in Afrin.

Reports about the possible YPG participate in the Idlib advance appeared earlier this year amid some rapprochement between the Kurdish political leadership and Damascus caused by a series of the YPG setbacks in the standoff against Turkey-led forces and repeated statements by US President Donald Trump that US forces will be withdrawn from Syria. Now, when it became clear that Trump’s statements are just statements, the YPG once again toughened its stance towards the Syrian government putting itself in a self-proclaimed vassal of the US in Syria.

On the other hand, Washington avoid declaring its open support to the YPG in the region in order to avoid further diplomatic escalation with Turkey. The US-led coalition prefers to use the brand of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alleged alliance of various opposition groups, in fact dominated by the YPG, in reports on its ground operations in Syria.

Currently, the SDF is working to eliminate the ISIS-held pocket of Hajin on the eastern bank of the Euphrates. SDF units have captured a number of positions there, but a main part of the area remains in the hands of ISIS.

On September 16, fierce clashes appeared between the SAA and ISIS in the Deir Ezzor-Homs desert with the terrorist group attacking government positions in several points. Earlier, some pro-government sources claimed that the desert had been fully secured. These reports are untrue.

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Order Mark Taliano’s Book “Voices from Syria” directly from Global Research.

Mark Taliano combines years of research with on-the-ground observations to present an informed and well-documented analysis that refutes  the mainstream media narratives on Syria. 

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This past weekend, September 15-16, marked the 10th anniversary of the Lehman Brothers Investment bank collapse and the subsequent generalized financial system crash that followed. Business and mainstream media flooded the airwaves and print publications with recounts and assessments of the events of ten years past. Most promoted the theme about how the Federal Reserve central bank and the US Treasury rescued us all from another 1930s-like depression. The corollary message is that ‘IT’ can’t happen today because of the various reforms instituted in the wake of the crash that now prevent the repeat of something similar like 2008.

Buried in the reviews of 2008 events is the sticky question of whether the investment bank, Lehman Brothers, should have been allowed to fail—as the US Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson, and the chair of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, decided to allow. The collapse of Lehman precipitated a chain of events and subsequent failures that resulted in a virtual freeze up of the entire US (and much of the rest of the global) financial system. Credit not only contracted—it essentially disappeared altogether for a period of time. The almost total absence of available credit spilled over to the rest of the non-financial economy. Businesses laid off workers at the rate of 1 million a month for the next six months—a trajectory almost exactly that of 1929-1930. By March 2009, even mainstream economists like Paul Krugman were declaring we had entered another ‘great depression’.

Ever since 2008 a debate has simmered whether Paulson-Bernanke should have allowed Lehman Brothers to go under, thus precipitating a chain reaction of derivatives claims that reverberated throughout the US banking system and beyond. The giant insurance company, AIG, a major issuer of derivatives contracts, quickly required bailout after Lehman’s collapse. Brokerages like Merrill Lynch were bailed as well. The big banks—Bank of America and Citigroup—were technically bankrupt by late 2008 and could have been dismantled were it not for $300 billion in debt payment guarantees by the US government. The financial arms of the auto companies, especially General Motors’ GMAC, which had invested heavily in subprime mortgages, dragged down their operating companies until bailed out by another $180 billion government infusion. Mid-tier banks were provided more than $100 billion. And the Federal Reserve set up special ‘facilities’—aka auctions—for various sectors of the financial system and provided emergency funds based on whatever interest they, the mutual funds, investment banks, and others said they wanted to pay. The borrowers, in other words, set their own interest rates. Those rates were quickly driven down by the Fed, to an historic low of 0.10% and kept there for another 7 years. The Fed then paid 0.25% to whoever borrowed from it and left the borrowed funds with it—i.e. a free subsidy of 0.15% for doing nothing. The Democratic Congress did its part as well, allowing banks to suspend normal ‘mark to market’ accounting practices and thus lie about how bad their balance sheets actually were. The Fed then conducted phony ‘stress tests’ of the banks to help them cover up their insolvent condition so that investors might then again start buying bank stocks that had collapsed. Thereafter, over the next seven years, through 2016, by means of its quantitative easing QE program, the Fed bought up bad assets from the banks, shadow banks, and individual investors totaling more than $6 trillion (often at above market prices for those securities).

On the fiscal policy side of bailout, the Obama administration provided a mere $25 billion to help bail out the 14 million homeowners that would eventually face foreclosures during the crash and ‘recovery’ period. In contrast, however, it provided $1 trillion in business-investor tax cuts in 2009 and 2010 ($200 billion in the 2009 Recovery Program, supplemented by another $800 billion at the close of 2010). Obama would then extend the Bush tax cuts of 2001-04 for another two years, 2010-2012, at a cost of $450 billion a year. And to top it off, in January 2013 Obama agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts for another decade at a cost to the Treasury of yet another $5 Trillion in what was called the ‘fiscal cliff’ deal with the now Republican Congress.

This unprecedented, massive bailout of bankers, corporations, and owners of capital incomes was arguably set in motion or accelerated by Paulson and Bernanke, by allowing the collapse of Lehman Brothers—one of the two milestone events of the 2008 crisis. The other milesdtone, occurring in March 2008, was the bailout by Bernanke’s Fed of the Bear Stearns investment bank.

The Sticky Debate: Why Bear But Not Lehman?

Image result for lehman brothers goldman sachs

The debate about why Bear Stearns was bailed, and Lehman not, has never quite gone away since the events of 2008. Nor has the contending arguments whether Lehman should have been allowed to fail. Autobiographies published by Paulson, Bernanke, and Tim Geithner (head of the key New York Fed district charged with big bank regulation)—i.e. all the key decision makers re. Lehman at the time—all insist that Lehman should not have been bailed, or that they just did not see the consequences. In other words, it was either the ‘right decision’ or a simple mistake. But there is another argument that has been more or less suppressed in the press and media: that Lehman was allowed to fail in order for Goldman Sachs investment bank to benefit by reaping tens of billions of dollars on derivative contracts from the insurance giant, AIG. When AIG then went under, Paulson moved quickly to bail AIG out (unlike Lehman a week earlier), at a cost to the Treasury of $180 billion at the time. Similarly, in the case of Bear Stearns the preceding March 2008, it too was bailed out, by the Fed which provided a $29 billion loan to JP Morgan Chase to absorb Bear Stearns’ assets at pennies on the dollar.

Goldman thus benefited greatly from Lehman’s collapse while Chase similarly did from Bear Stearns’ rescue. And the government—the US Treasury and Federal Reserve—was complicit in arranging the bailout of the one and the collapse of the other. The apparent anomaly of why Bear was bailed and Lehman allowed to go under is thus explainable by the US government’s role allowing even bigger and more influential banks—JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs—to gobble up their competitors (Bear and Lehman) on the cheap. In the one, Chase benefited from the bailout; in the other, Goldman benefited from the collapse.

This suggests the unifying element of the apparent different treatments of Bear v. Lehman was the US government—Treasury and Fed—unofficial policy at the time of trying to resolve the crisis by making even bigger banks more financially solvent, and thus able to withstand the crisis, at the expense of the smaller.

This policy of saving the big bankers at the expense of the smaller was disastrous, however. In the case of Bear Stearns, it gave a signal to speculators they could attack and drive down the stock prices of other financial institutions and the Fed-Treasury would do nothing. And that’s exactly what happened after March 2008, as the vultures descending on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the GSEs, that Paulson’s Treasury then bailed out at a cost of $300 billion; then attacked smaller banks like Washington Mutual, causing it too to fail; then moved on to brokerages like Merrill Lynch; and then Lehman. If the speculators and short-sellers of these bank and financial institutions’ stocks were prevented from doing what they did by Paulson and the Treasury, or Congressional action, there would have been no Lehman to allow to collapse—or Washington Mutual, or AIG, or GMAC or Bank of America or Citigroup, or the $6 trillion Fed bailout that followed, 2009-16.

Few progressive economists bother to investigate all this, allowing their commentary to fall into the ‘safe zone’ trap of discussion themes set by the business and official mainstream press. Like the mainstream press, they have tended to focus on whether the Lehman collapse was ‘necessary’—and not on ‘who benefited’, why, and the role of the US government (Treasury and Fed).

One exception to this is the recently released book by Laurence Ball, definitely not a progressive or ‘left’ economist. His ‘The Fed and the Lehman Brothers’ book (Cambridge University Press, 2018) dives into this question of the contributing role of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve in engineering the failure of Lehman Brothers (if not the similar event of Bear Stearns). It’s an essential read. Yours truly also raised the issue back in 2010 in my own book, ‘Epic Recession: Prelude to Global Depression’, (Pluto books, London, 2010).

The Fed’s Bear Stearns Bailout: JP Morgan Chase’s Multibillion Dollar Windfall

Image result for Epic Recession: Prelude to Global Depression

In the book I argue that Bear Stearns—the first ‘bookend’ to the crisis—set in motion a chain reaction of liquidity and insolvency events throughout the ‘shadow banking’ sector starting in early 2008 that culminated in the Lehman crash in September. Lehman’s implosion then exacerbated and deepened the liquidity-insolvency problems throughout virtually the entire financial system, as contagion spread as the ‘transmission mechanisms’ of the crisis—i.e. accelerating general asset price deflation and derivatives liability claims between banks and financial institutions—infected one credit sector after another, including international. With Lehman, what had started as a subprime mortgage problem in 2007, had now become a generalized credit problem connected by the cancerous thread of derivatives linking banks and financial institutions globally. 2008 was a derivatives crisis not a mortgage crisis.

Bear Stearns’ collapse was caused in large part by the giant commercial bank, J.P. Morgan Chase—which eventually became the big beneficiary of Bear Stearns’ insolvency. JP Morgan Chase’s eventual takeover of Bear Stearns in April 2008 was arranged with the direct assistance of Ben Bernanke’s Federal Reserve, the US central bank. Bernanke arranged a low interest loan of $29 billion to Chase with which it ‘bought’ up Bear Stearns’ assets. Chase thus did not commit any of its own capital. Chase acquired Bear assets for pennies on the dollar. Bear Stearns’ New York Manhattan building and properties alone were worth more than $100 billion. Its remaining financial assets and accounts billions of dollars more. Its customer base was worth untold further billions to Chase.

US Treasury’s Lehman Brothers Decision: Goldman Sachs Gets $69 Billion

Similarly, the Lehman collapse was engineered with the help of the US government—specifically the direct assistance of the US Treasury. In the Lehman case the direct beneficiary of the Lehman collapse was the Goldman Sachs investment bank, a main competitor of Lehman.

The Fed did not offer to bail out Lehman, unlike Bear Stearns. Bernanke’s weak excuse was it did not have the authority to do so. Or the liquidity, since it, the Fed, had expended most of its balance sheet assets in preceding months in bailing out Bear and others. The latter argument is specious. The Treasury could have easily provided the Fed the liquidity to bail out Lehman. But as Laurence Ball, in his ‘The Fed and Lehman Brothers’ summarizes in his four year study of the Lehman case: “the Fed could have rescued Lehman but officials chose not to because of political pressures”. What officials? What political pressures?

The officials and pressures suggests Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, who just two years prior was the CEO of Goldman Sachs. By allowing Lehman to go under, Paulson ensured that his former employer, Goldman Sachs (whose stock he personally still held when leaving Goldman in 2006), would be able to collect on the billions of dollars in Credit Default Swaps (CDS) it bought from AIG. CDS’s are ‘bets’ that an institution will fail. If it fails, the issuer of the CDS bets has to pay off the buyer of the CDS. AIG had issued a massive number of CDS that Lehman would fail. It would have to pay Goldman if Lehman failed tens of billions of dollars. When Lehman was allowed to fail (by Paulson), Goldman collected. Because AIG had over-issued CDS on Lehman that it did not have the resources to pay—AIG became insolvent as well.

By bailing out AIG to the tune of $180, AIG was able to pay Goldman and others on their CDS bets that Lehman would fail. In short, Lehman was allowed to fail (by Paulson’s decision), so AIG could provide a tens of billions of dollars windfall to Goldman Sachs, Paulson’s former employer, and Paulson approves the AIG bailout so it could pay Goldman. If this isn’t a ‘smoking gun’ then what is?

Of course, no one was about to investigate Paulson’s role (and Bernanke’s willingness to go along and not bail out Lehman as well) in all this despite the prima facie evidence. After all, none of the actual bankers responsible for the 2008 crisis in general were ever indicted or went to jail. So why would the US government’s Treasury Secretary, big banker, CEO of Goldman be charged with anything?

It is important to understand that the US government played a central role in assisting the two larger banks—Chase and Goldman—to gobble up their smaller capitalist competitors, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. And that this assistance occurred after both Chase and Goldman played a key role causing the collapse of Bear and Lehman.

Bear’s rescue directly benefited JP Morgan Chase in the tens of billions; Lehman’s collapse benefited Goldman Sachs in the tens of billions as well. Capitalist bankers devour each other, but US politicians play their part as well. That’s how the system works.

This role of government and politicians in the 2008 banking crash is often treated shallowly, or altogether ignored, by mainstream economic and business reviewers of the 2008 crash—Ball’s book somewhat to the contrary.

This week marks the 10th anniversary of the 2008 crash. Most say that ‘It’ could never happen again. Banks are better regulated. They have significant capital buffers to offset losses should another collapse of their asset prices occur. We have the ‘Volcker Rule’. The subprime mortgage housing problem is no longer. Housing finance reforms are in place. And so forth. But don’t bet on it. And don’t bet that in the next crisis coming that government and politicians won’t be deeply involved in assisting their bigger banker friends making money off the crisis.

For capitalist banks are cannibals. They eat their own. Never was this more obvious than during the 2008 financial crisis. And our government and politicians are there to ensure that they are well fed.

(Readers interested in my analysis of the Bear-Lehman ‘bookend events’ to the 2008 crisis are welcomed to read the excerpts on the events of March to September 2008 on my website which is accessible here).

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Jack Rasmus is the author of the forthcoming book, ‘The Scourge of Neoliberalism: Economic Policy in the US from Reagan to Trump’, to be published by Clarity Press. His latest book is ‘Central Bankers at the End of Their Ropes: Monetary Policy and the Coming Depression’, 2017, also published by Clarity.

He blogs at jackrasmus.com and his twitter handle is @drjackrasmus. he is a frequent contributor to Global Research. 

International community principles

At the 25th U.N. session of October 1970 the General Assembly adopted a Resolution titled “Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.” [1] Not too many people would know that, therefore I think it is important to remember what those principles are (emphasis added):

  • The principle that States shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.
  • The principle that States shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered.
  • The principle concerning the duty not to intervene in matters within the domestic jurisdiction of any State, in accordance with the Charter.
  • The duty of States to co-operate with one another in accordance with the Charter.
  • The principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.
  • The principle of sovereign equality of States.
  • The principle that States shall fulfill in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the Charter.

The OAS Charter has similar principles.

I have often criticized the U.N. for being ineffective and I still stand by it. I am going out on a limb by saying that the more “principles” and “resolutions” the U.N. issues, the more military interventions, invasions, terrorist actions, incitation to violence, wars, and of course punitive economic sanctions have occurred in the last 40 or more years. 

However, I must clarify that a world organization like the U.N. is necessary, albeit one that should be radically modified to really live up to its promise stated in the principles listed above. At least one principle should be essential: The principle of sovereign equality of States.

But I don’t think I am going out on a limb when I say that only one country, among the 193 U.N. member States, stands out as having committed consistently and relentlessly the large majority of international infractions: The United States of America.

Many of its infractions are clearly apparent. Many others occur behind the cover of “diplomacy”, such as incitement to rebellion and coups, bribery and corruption. Often, the U.N. and other international bodies, including embassies, are the preferred venues for fomenting subversion. It is not unusual that this type of unlawful activity would also be “delegated” to some so-called civil society organization or NGO.

Today we are seeing blatant examples of U.S. unlawful behavior to the point that it is a serious menace to Venezuela and the rest of Latin America. 

Overcoming sanctions

I have already referred to the U.S. sanctions and their connection to the U.S.-centered financial system in the context of the recent monetary conversion in Venezuela. [2] But unilateral U.S. sanctions have become the economic version of an epidemic. Cuba, Russia, Iran, Syria, and the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea are current targets.

It is to be noted that the U.S. and other countries have consistently issued sanctions against Venezuela every time the Maduro government has undertaken important policy measures, the last one being issued on May 21 a day after Nicolas Maduro was reelected president.

What is striking this time is that after the major monetary revolution, initiated by the Maduro government last August 21, not a single new sanction has been issued. Surprisingly, one can say that U.S. sanctions stand out for its absence. This can have two possible interpretations. 

The immediate one is that the Venezuelan monetary conversion, with pegging of the currency to the largest Venezuelan oil resources through the crypto currency Petro, is successfully rendering sanctions avoidable to a certain extent, and therefore less effective economic weapons. The U.S. may be losing the thunder of the dollar as the world reserve currency with the consequent weakening of the U.S. financial system that is at the core of economic sanctions. 

Other countries threatened by U.S. sanctions like Iran and Iraq are taking notice and are considering similar monetary policies dropping the dollar in their bilateral trade transactions. China and U.S.-sanctioned Russia are also increasing their financial interaction away from the dollar. [3] The president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was more adamant declaring,

Now we have to gradually end the domination of the dollar once and for all by using national money among us“. [4]

Even some opposition economists foresee that a more independent Venezuelan economy will free itself of the crippling foreign-induced inflation. [5] And this can only lead to a healthy recovery in terms of availability of essential products. The prospect of economic recovery is quite real as suggested by the positive response of the Venezuelan private sector. But, a more encouraging sign is the willingness of many Venezuelans, who had left, to return home and are now receiving logistical support from the Maduro government to come back. We are seeing a “migration crisis” myth destroyed. 

This scenario will not only be a “bad example” for other nations, but it will also destroy other myths to justify a regime change in Venezuela such as “humanitarian crisis”. No such thing has any real foundation as recently reported by the U.N. independent expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas, to the 39th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council. [6]

Military intervention and proxy war

So, given that sanctions are being overcome and are not anymore, at least for now, the weapon of choice of the U.S. for regime change in Venezuela, we are left with a second possible scenario that the U.S. is preparing for another course of action: military intervention or, equivalently, a proxy war. This would be a tragic decision and should sound an alarm to all Venezuela observers and governments of the region. There has never been a U.S. military intervention that has brought any positive outcome to the population anywhere. All “gains” are only assured for U.S. corporations.

The latest report that the U.S. is somehow involved in building a Venezuelan military rebellion comes from the New York Times:

The Trump administration held secret meetings with rebellious military officers from Venezuela over the last year to discuss their plans to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro.” [7] 

How is the military intervention to take place and what would the reaction be?

If we are to learn from past U.S. interventions in other conflict zones, the U.S. may not put its own troops on the ground in Venezuela, at least initially, but more likely will provide full logistic, intelligence and weaponry support to “rebels”. This requires a “rebel force” that is so far non-existent, despite attempts to manufacture one that gives the impression of “hundreds” of Venezuelan military “disaffected” with the Maduro administration.

However, in this possible scenario infiltration attacks, including sabotage, would come from Colombia and less likely, for now, from Brazil due to the upcoming elections in October. But in the likelihood that Jair Bolsonaro is the winning Brazilian candidate, Venezuela will face two rightwing governments in the two border countries. They would be fully prompted by the U.S. to act and they would comply. The Venezuelan border states to watch are Tachira, Zulia and Bolivar.

Ahead of an overt military intervention or proxy war we will see an increase in the infowar that is already being waged against Venezuela. The current infowar is the overstated “exodus” of Venezuelans. A detailed research clearly shows that there is no “migration crisis”. [8] 

Although no conclusion can be drawn at this point about a U.S. military intervention, the history of Latin America shows that it cannot be excluded. It is dependent on three main conditions: the creation of a U.S.-style “plausible reason” to intervene (mostly done), a local real or made up rebel group (still underway), and enough support from a majority of regional and international governments (not quite likely yet). The Venezuelan representative at the U.N., Samuel Moncada has twitted a few days ago that the “U.S. is pushing Brazil, Chile, Peru and Colombia to war, demanding to take a tough decision to start the aggression.” 

This leads to the question of what the reaction in the Latin American and Caribbean region and beyond would be.

So far, the little over a dozen countries of the so-called Lima Group has hijacked the voice of the OAS inciting to regime change at all cost. But that is still a minority of the 35 OAS member states.

The Trump administration must weigh very carefully its decision. Tilting the balance towards a military intervention could create a serious backlash in the region, not only political, but also social with prolonged conflicts.

Beyond the region, Washington must consider the possible reactions from Moscow and Beijing. Russia and China have developed close economic and business ties in Latin America and Venezuela in particular. China is now the fourth largest destination of Venezuelan oil.

Realistically, the most important point for the U.S. to consider is the reaction of the Venezuelan people. The U.S. government is misinforming the international community about the lack of support for the Maduro government in Venezuela, however, it must have first hand information about the following facts: 1) the large majority of the Venezuelan population is indeed a very cohesive democratic and constitutional society; and 2) Venezuela has a loyal National Bolivarian Militia with about half a million personnel whose main function is “Establish permanent links between the National Bolivarian Armed Forces and the Venezuelan people, in order to contribute to ensuring the overall defense of Venezuela.”

Concluding thoughts

In a fair international community of nations truly based on U.N. principles for the sake of peace, the United States would abide to the first principle listed above: “that States shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State”. But the U.S. has not and will not.  Its only principle seems to be that of “exceptionalism”. It is determined to suffer the isolation of a bully state.

Unfortunately, the U.S. reckless actions have consequences not only for the 30 million people of Venezuela but also for the rest of the region. 

Venezuela has initiated a process that promises to effectively reduce the impact of unilateral and punitive economic sanctions slapped on the country, and begin an economic recovery process. A possible sign that Venezuela’s monetary reform may have outmaneuvered the U.S. is that there have been no new sanctions against Venezuela since last May from the U.S. or other countries.

However, this is not a complete victory for Venezuela. A more serious danger may lie ahead. Based on a recent report by the NYT the danger has been brewing for some time, and judging by at least one analysis it is fast approaching in the form of a possible military intervention whose final staging is not clear yet. [9]

There have been several threats from the Trump administration in the past so it is clear that today a military action against Venezuela cannot be ruled out. Venezuela has always taken seriously any threat to its national security and has responded diplomatically and publicly with protests. It has just done so one more time with the intention of informing public opinion that the U.S. is breaking international law on top of U.N. and OAS principles.

A military intervention, direct or through proxies, will not be a guaranteed “success” to the U.S. The claim in the NYT that a “few hundred” Venezuelan troops may be disaffected is neither credible nor sufficient to confront a loyal population as the attempted coup against Hugo Chavez in 2002 proved. Further, it would trigger a chain reaction of events never seen before. In the emerging multipolar world the involvement of Russia and China cannot be excluded; if not armed, at least political.

But this is a situation where Venezuela cannot wait or hope for any immediate help except from its own people, and it has to tip on the side of caution. The price of misjudging the danger may be too high.

There can be no doubt that the Bolivarian Armed Forces and the National Bolivarian Militia are on full alert and ready. 

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Nino Pagliccia is an activist and writer based in Vancouver, Canada. He is a Venezuelan-Canadian who writes about international relations with a focus on the Americas. He is editor of the book “Cuba Solidarity in Canada – Five Decades of People-to-People Foreign Relations” http://www.cubasolidarityincanada.ca. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Notes

[1] http://www.un-documents.net/a25r2625.htm

[2] https://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Venezuelas-Monetary-Revolution-Vis-a-Vis-Economic-Sanctions-20180808-0023.html

[3] https://actualidad.rt.com/actualidad/287735-expulsar-dolar-mercado-asiatico

[4] https://actualidad.rt.com/actualidad/287339-erdogan-acabar-dominio-dolar 

[5] http://sakerlatam.es/america-latina-y-el-caribe/analisis-informal-de-las-medidas-economicas-adoptadas-en-venezuela/ and http://www.simpatizantesfmln.org/blog/?p=56528 

[6] https://chicagoalbasolidarity.files.wordpress.com/2018/08/un-report-on-venezuela-and-ecuador-alfred-de-zayas.pdf 

[7] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/08/world/americas/donald-trump-venezuela-military-coup.html

[8] https://actualidad.rt.com/actualidad/287848-vecindad-incomoda-dimension-real-migracion-venezuela

[9] http://resumen-english.org/2018/09/the-next-90-days-will-define-the-future-of-venezuela-and-south-america/ 

La nuova cortina di ferro

September 18th, 2018 by Manlio Dinucci

La Lettonia sta costruendo una recinzione metallica di 90 km, alta 2,5 metri, lungo il confine con la Russia, che sarà ultimata entro l’anno. Sarà estesa nel 2019 su oltre 190 km di confine, con un costo previsto di 17 milioni di euro. Una analoga recinzione di 135 km viene costruita dalla Lituania al confine col territorio russo di Kaliningrad. L’Estonia ha annunciato la prossima costruzione di una recinzione, sempre al confine con la Russia, lunga 110 km e alta anch’essa 2,5 metri. Costo previsto oltre 70 milioni di euro, per i quali il governo estone chiederà un finanziamento Ue. Scopo di tali recinzioni, secondo le dichiarazioni governative, è «proteggere i confini esterni dell’Europa e della Nato». Esclusa la motivazione che essi debbano essere «protetti» da massicci flussi migratori provenienti dalla Russia, non resta che l’altra: i confini esterni della Ue e della Nato devono essere «protetti» dalla «minaccia russa».

Poiché la recinzione costruita dai paesi baltici lungo il confine con la Russia ha una efficacia militare praticamente nulla, il suo scopo è fondamentalmente ideologico: quello di simbolo fisico che, al di là della recinzione, c’è un pericoloso nemico che ci minaccia. Ciò rientra nella martellante psyop politico-mediatica per giustificare la escalation Usa/Nato in Europa contro la Russia. In tale quadro, il presidente della Repubblica Sergio Mattarella si è recato in Lettonia due volte, la prima in luglio in un giro di visite nei paesi baltici e in Georgia. Al pranzo ufficiale a Riga, il presidente della Repubblica italiana ha lodato la Lettonia per aver scelto la «integrazione all’interno della Nato e dell’Unione Europea» e aver deciso di «abbracciare un modello di società aperta, basata sul rispetto dello stato di diritto, sulla democrazia, sulla centralità dei diritti dell’uomo». Lo ha dichiarato al presidente lettone Raymond Vejonis, il quale aveva già approvato in aprile il disegno di legge che proibisce l’insegnamento del russo in Lettonia, un paese la cui popolazione è per quasi il 30% di etnia russa e il russo è usato quale lingua principale dal 40% degli abitanti. Una misura liberticida che, proibendo il bilinguismo riconosciuto dalla stessa Unione europea, discrimina ulteriormente la minoranza russa, accusata di essere «la quinta colonna di Mosca».

Due mesi dopo, in settembre, il presidente Mattarella è tornato in Lettonia per partecipare a un vertice informale di Capi di Stato dell’Unione europea, in cui è stato trattato tra gli altri il tema degli attacchi informatici da parte di «Stati con atteggiamento ostile» (chiaro il riferimento alla Russia). Dopo il vertice, il Presidente della Repubblica si è recato alla base militare di Ᾱdaži, dove ha incontrato il contingente italiano inquadrato nel Gruppo di battaglia schierato dalla Nato in Lettonia nel quadro della «presenza avanzata potenziata» ai confini con la Russia. «La vostra presenza è un elemento che rassicura i nostri amici lettoni e degli altri paesi baltici», ha dichiarato il Presidente della Repubbica. Parole che sostanzialmente alimentano la psyop, suggerendo  l’esistenza di una minaccia per i paesi baltici e il resto dell’Europa proveniente dalla Russia.

Il 24 settembre arriverà in Lettonia anche Papa Francesco, in visita nei tre paesi baltici. Chissà se, ripetendo che si devono  «costruire ponti non muri», dirà qualcosa anche sulla nuova cortina di ferro che, dividendo la regione europea, prepara le menti alla guerra. Oppure se a Riga, deponendo fiori al «Monumento per la libertà», rivendicherà la libertà dei giovani lettoni russi di imparere e usare la propria lingua.

Manlio Dinucci

il manifesto, 18 settembre 2018

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September 17th, 2018 by The Global Research Team

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Despite their responsibility for the 2008 economic crash, the financial sector has successfully avoided major reform in the decade since. Their army of lobbyists has won almost all the major battles, leaving new legislation full of loopholes and conditions similar to those that created the crash in the first place.

Corporate Europe Observatory shows how the past ten years of financial lobbying have kept us vulnerable to future crises and costly bailouts.

Those days in September 2008, watching the proverbial towers of global finance crumbling, were both scary and full of hope. Scary because the financial crash unfolding was bound to create misery and poverty in the coming months and years, yet hopeful because this could have been a unique opportunity to secure much-needed radical reforms of the financial markets. The crisis itself had origins in the light-touch regulation of the preceding years, a fact acknowledged even by some of its architects. Now, in the face of acute and disastrous systemic failure, surely a U-turn would follow.

Yet that reform never materialised. It’s not that nothing has changed. Supervision has been increased and various kinds of ‘emergency brakes’ introduced that allow regulators to step in with more tools if a severe risk is on the rise, say if a big financial corporation is in dire straits. But a decade on, initial hopes that the crisis would lead to a rethink of financial markets appear naïve. Over the past ten years all ambitious ideas have been watered down, delayed almost indefinitely, or simply brushed aside, in no small part due to the power of the financial lobby and the deep bonds between decision-makers and financial corporations.

Commission moves fast to let bankers set the agenda

The European Commission moved fast in the days and weeks after the crisis broke. In September 2008 Commission President Barroso announced he would set up a high-level advisory group to evaluate what reforms to financial regulation would need to be made. In mid-October his group was approved by the EU’s member states. It was a group with deep links to some of the very institutions that caused the crisis. Of a group of only eight, one sitting member of the group had links to the infamous Lehman Brothers, another with Goldman Sachs, yet another with Citigroup, and the Chair Jacques de Larosière was tied to BNP Paribas. These ‘wise men’ would hardly take us very far. They delivered the ‘de Larosière report’ that set the agenda for the only EU institution with the power to introduce draft legislation, the European Commission.

This was a somewhat familiar pattern: by 2008 the Commission already had a long held a habit of consulting widely with financial lobbyists in its attempt to deepen the single market in financial services. For example the Commission had built up a tradition of gathering bankers and fund managers for a thorough chat well before anything was proposed. Sure enough, an investigation into the ‘expert groups’ the Commission consulted over the toxic issues related to the crisis, showed this is exactly what happened. The European executive had allowed financial lobbyists to take the role of advisors, bending the ideas of the Commission to their advantage, and in some cases by preventing initiatives altogether, as in the case of private equity funds and investment funds. In that area, on the advice of an advisory group set up in January 2006 dominated by lobbyists, the Commission decided not to propose rules on hedge funds.

Hedge funds: meek measures in return for free passage

This leniency did not go unnoticed. In the European Parliament there was a strong push for regulation, but this was ignored by the Commission. The crisis had opened a new era, and Commissioner McCreevy felt compelled to elaborate a proposal for regulating ‘alternative investment funds’ launched in April 2009. What followed was a vigorous battle that took place both in the media, at conferences, and in perhaps hundreds of meetings between politicians and lobbyists. With lobby groups European Venture Capital Association EVCA (private equity funds, today called Invest Europe) and AIMA (hedge funds) at the wheel, the financial sector launched a campaign that began with scaremongering. “Thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenues could be at stake,” said one corporate think tank. “A total rewrite” was necessary, the AIMA said of the proposal.

In the following year, the fund industry put pressure on member state governments, including getting the UK Government to bring the US Government into the battle. What followed was a remarkably sharply-worded protest sent to EU heads of state from US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner who warned that new rules could lead to a trade war between the two powers.

Lobbying traffic in the European Parliament massively increased. For example in the first six months of 2010 no less than 46 meetings between UK Conservative MEPs and the fund industry took place. And the lobbyists were having an impact: once reform proceedings started in earnest, out of 1,600 amendments submitted by MEPs, half of which were actually written by lobbyists, according to one estimate.

All these moves bore fruit. While the European Parliament had many ideas about how to rein in investment funds, the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive (AIFMD )dene ended up being a directive that was mainly about transparency. And the fund industry was even given a major concession that would make the directive quite appealing: on the adoption of the directive, a fund would only need to be approved and registered in one EU member state to operate in all others, so-called passporting. Even the staunchest opponents of the directive were won over. The AIMA had its finest hour.

Shrewd scaremongering killed reform

The battle over banking regulation was far longer and it took place at more levels than the fund controversy. As key parts of banking regulation are agreed at the international level, this is where banks started fighting back after two years in the dock. In the summer of 2010 international negotiations took place at the Basel Committee with a view to strengthen banking regulation. Under review were the existing rules obliging banks to hold onto a certain level of reserves to protect against future crises, known as ‘capital requirements’. The numbers in force were deemed too low and the way they were measured left too many loopholes for bankers. Calculation models developed by the banks themselves enabled them to keep capital reserves artificially low.

During the negotiations the international lobby group for big banks, the Institute for International Finance (IIF), released a report with a dire warning to negotiators: if there were to be a hike in capital requirements, the result would be millions of job losses and growth rates would take a beating. The report would be followed up by other reports from big banks with identical claims. One could argue that low capital requirements had already led to just that outcome, but the context in 2010 turned out to work to the advantage of the mega-banks. Ambitions were duly lowered for capital requirements when an agreement was reached in August 2010. Only days later, the Bank of International Settlements issued two reports that belied the IIF’s scaremongering claims but by then it was too late. The banks had once again set the agenda and secured only a small increase in capital requirements; including very modest changes to banks’ own internal models that they used to calculate their capital requirements.

The banks would remain a concern for the European Union throughout the whole decade. Even today, the concern for bad loans and banks in risk of collapse remains.

Window dressing on bonuses, credit rating, and audits

Many other issues were settled in the years that followed. One particularly important to the European Parliament was the question of bankers’ bonuses. The bonus structure made it too attractive for executives to play risky bets on the markets, and reform would cool their experiments. That was the thinking behind the main contribution to the banking debate from MEPs in 2010.

With London as the epicentre, banks started a campaign to convince lawmakers that by reforming bonuses they would undermine the competitiveness of European banks. In the end, the rules decided on seemed flexible enough for the banks with a bonus cap of up to 100 percent of salaries. Protests by bank lobbyists would continue throughout the legislative process; but in real life the rules adopted in 2013 proved to be full of loopholes. Banks were able to redefine bonuses as ‘role-based pay’, or simply increase salaries in other ways. Three years later the EU institutions acknowledged the problem but so far nothing has been done to fix it, and lavish bonuses continue to provoke the public.

There was also lobbying pushback in late 2013 over reform of accounting and auditing rules. The accounting and audit firms (the ‘Big Four’) were under the spotlight for their role in the crisis, having giving overly positive assessments of financial health for some major clients, including key examples such as Ernst&Young’s role in providing window dressing for Lehman Brothers.

What needed to be done seemed obvious. Overly close links between any of the Big Four and their clients is risky; if a bank is able to rely on using the same audit firm for decades, the temptation for said firm to help out a reliable client in times of trouble is higher.

The EU rules adopted in early 2014 did little if anything to break up these overly cosy relationships. If all exceptions and loopholes are brought into play, the rules adopted in early 2014 allow a company to keep the same auditing firm for 24 years. This weak reform followed aggressive lobbying by the financial industry to either prolong the period or simply avoid imposing mandatory rotation in the first place.

No more ground was gained with the credit rating agencies. The problem with these agencies was that for quite a while in the run-up to the collapse of Lehman Brothers, these companies – paid to do risk assessments of securities – were ´Triple A factories’, ie they were rating unsound entities as solid, low risk investments. Indeed, the very securities that were to become tightly linked with the financial crash were rated by them as super sound and secure investments up until days before it all turned out to be a lie. Many analysts were quick to spot the problem: a credit rating agency earns its money from the financial institutions whose products they rate – sometimes they are even co-owned by them.

Surprisingly, the EU reform would hardly even touch on this key conflict of interest. At the proposal of the Commission, the EU went for a version modelled on the US rules in force since 2002; in other words, the very rules that had proved so sadly insufficient.

Big banks can grow bigger

After years of ‘financial reforms’ that aren’t fit for purpose, perhaps the most striking feature of the debate has been the agenda setting, in part due to Barroso’s quick move in putting big bankers up front to define the scope of the EU’s reforming ambition. The issue of the size of banks certainly emerged but in the political debate the demand to break up the banks has remained marginal. Even after the public purses in the European Union had put a staggering €4.5 billion on the table to bail out banks – with a final cost of 1,4 billion euros – there was little talk of fundamental measures.

While there was recognition that something needed to be done to avoid major payouts, the method chosen was one suggested by big banks themselves. Under the banking union, the banks themselves would pay a small amount to make up a ‘resolution fund’. The fund would then be spent to provide for an orderly dismantling of bad banks. However, should there be too little in the pot – and if the bank in question is of significance there would be – then public money will once again be brought in to save the day.

It could be argued this is more a system of securing public bailouts than the opposite. But there is more. If we acknowledge the crucial systemic importance of the biggest banks represents a risk in itself, then the banking union is designed to make matters worse. In the process of deconstructing an ailing bank, it has been made easy for other big banks to buy them and grow bigger themselves in the process. When interviewed about the banking union, the Chief Executive of BNP Paribas, Jean-Laurent Bonnafé said: “Then the strongest part of the banking system could be part of some form of consolidation – either through an acquisition or through organic development plans.” This fits neatly with what is now the official position of the European Central Bank: there are too many banks in Europe. Concentration is preferable to secure global competitiveness. One of the downsides is that we will be living with the ‘too-big-to-fail’ problem for years to come.

Banking structure untouched

Truth be told, not every initiative from the EU institutions have been meek and toothless. In 2012 a high-level group chaired by Finnish central banker Erkki Liikanen was published. It contained a series of proposals to address the question of the banking structure in Europe, and while it did not touch on the size of the banks as such, it did go into the question of the way banks invest their own money. In the US there has been some sort of separation between investment banks and retail banks since the 1930s and the adoption of the Glass-Steagal act. The basic idea is to prevent banks from using own money or customers money to invest. In the US the act was rolled back before the crisis but returned in July 2015 in a weaker, new form called the Volcker Rule which restricts banks’ “proprietary trading”.

Something along those lines, albeit weaker, was proposed in the Liikanen report. But the launch of the report in 2012 acted as an alarm bell for the banks. One of the first moves they made was to go for intense lobbying at the national level to have rules adopted in the area, chiefly in Germany, France, and the UK. Then the financial lobby managed to secure the introduction of a text in the draft law that would let member states apply their own rules even if new European rules were adopted. But more importantly, through lobbying at the member state level, negotiations between governments became complicated and in 2017 the whole exercise was dropped entirely, to the dismay of campaigners.

Financial Transaction Tax in a coma

But perhaps the most monumental defeat for financial reform is over the Financial Transactions Tax. This is a proposal for a tiny tax on all transactions on financial markets, which could create considerable funds for important purposes and bring down the number of transactions considerably. High-speed speculation would be curtailed and few outside the trading rooms would miss it.

Oxfam GB’s 2010 campaign video for the financial transaction tax, dubbed “The Robin Hood Tax”:

It became clear quite quickly that the financial industry would not sit on its hands when confronted with such a challenge. Reports were produced quickly, for instance by the Global Financial Markets Association, to convince decision-makers it would be a highly costly affair that could take 0.5 per cent of estimated growth in years to come. Governments hostile to the proposal such as the Danish and UK governments picked up this message. Still, due to a political agreement in Germany the most powerful nation was in favour and so was France. A group of 11 member states was formed to introduce the tax, even if the other member states were reluctant.

The tenacity of the group of 11 forced the financial lobby to seek new avenues. Instead they worked at the member state level to make governments to secure a push for a watered down version of the tax. The first breakthrough came in France from a campaign spearheaded by the Fédération Bancaire Française that argued a tax would cripple the development of the French financial sector. This led to significant downscaling of the ambitions of the French Government. Since then, negotiations between the member states in the FTT camp have been slow and complicated. Formally, the FTT is still in process, but the die-hard anti-FTT campaigners in the City of London can note with satisfaction in their reports that nothing is happening.

A victorious army

With these experiences in mind there is little doubt that the financial lobby won the battle in Brussels. And this fact is underlined by two recent developments. The first is about the infamous subprime loans. As part of the attempt to strengthen the securities market ‘products’ will be awarded special treatment provided they fulfil certain conditions. But these conditions, Dutch analysts Engelen and Glasmacher argue, actually open the door to “the European equivalent of subprime borrowers”. The second is about banking regulation and the infamous Lehman Brothers. When the first package of international guidelines for banks was issued after the Basel negotiations in 2010, it included a cautious suggestion to introduce a maximum ‘leverage ratio’ – the ratio between a banks’ own capital and its exposures. The message was not received politely by European banks who fought against the idea from the beginning; as they did with the ‘risk reduction package’ discussed recently. While in May 2018 the risk reduction package was finally adopted and a mandatory leverage ratio is to be introduced, looking at the number suggested – a ratio of three percent – it makes you wonder what they are trying to achieve. With a mandatory leverage ratio of three percent, banks don’t even have to be as resilient as Lehman Brothers in 2008 shortly before its collapse.

Though the financial lobby has been forced to go on the defensive on several occasions, it is difficult to find a single financial lobby association in Brussels that is not broadly happy about the outcome of the package. They come out of the crisis era in triumph. The legislative response to the financial crisis could have threatened their interests, but it may actually have given them a boost. After all, even if the financial sector is doing everything by the book, this is no help to society if the rules in the book are made by and for the financial sector.

There are many reasons for that. One is the close cooperation and the camaraderie between decision-makers and the financial lobby. A fresh example is the overwhelming dominance of financial industry representatives in the advisory groups of the European Central Bank. Another is the ease with which former Commissioner Jonathan Hill could go from a high level EU position to becoming an advisor for the financial industry. And last but not least, we have seen the former Commission President José Manuel Barroso join the ranks of Goldman Sachs.

Another reason is the lobbying power of financial corporations in and of itself, which is a crucial factor. In member states they are able to swing governments, and in their lobbying to influence Brussels an army of at least 1,700 lobbyists stand ready to attack any attempt to impose stronger regulation of the sector. They are not on the defensive either. In recent years many attempts have been made to roll back the feeble achievements of financial reform and to invent new projects that have deregulation and liberalization at its core.

Any attempt to reform the financial system has to factor in their power.

While this picture is bleak, it would be a mistake to ignore the effect of public outrage and campaigning – one of the reasons the financial sector has such highly paid lobbyists in the first place. Social movements have fought for a tax on financial transactions (FTT) for the better part of 20 years; where once it was seen as a marginal demand, in Europe it is now an issue discussed seriously by governments. Sooner or later it will materialize and even if it is only in a watered down version, there will be a clear platform for taking the next steps.

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Elections in Pakistan: A Populist Moment?

September 17th, 2018 by Ayyaz Mallick

The third consecutive general election was held in Pakistan on July 25th, with the Pakistan Movement for Justice party (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, PTI) of celebrity-cricketer Imran Khan emerging as the largest party in parliament. For a country marred by long bouts of military rule, the continuity of (at least formal) democracy might be taken as good news. However, the conditions leading up to the elections, the prevailing balance of forces in the country, and the populist coalition forged by Khan and his party, may not bode well for the prospects of a substantive democracy centred on Pakistan’s working masses.

Leading to the Elections

The lead-up to these general elections was marred by accusations of “pre-poll rigging” by the military-dominated establishment of Pakistan in favour of the PTI and, especially, focussed on dislodging the incumbent Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League faction (PML-N). Nawaz himself was the product of military engineering of Pakistani politics during the U.S.-sponsored regime of General Zia (1978 to 1988) and the petro-dollar sponsored Afghan war in the 1980s. Throughout the 1990s, Sharif endured an uneven relationship with the security establishment until things came to a head in his ouster through General Musharraf’s coup in 1999. Having fashioned himself as a pro-“development” leader, Sharif secured a majority in the 2013 elections and became Prime Minister.

Sharif’s majority in parliament was, however, undercut by street agitation led by Khan and other religio-political forces, egged on by a military establishment uncomfortable with Sharif’s bid to forge closer ties with India and increase control over Pakistan’s foreign and security policy. Sharif also sought to bring former military dictator General Musharraf to an unprecedented trial in court. Tensions over foreign and security policy, the fate of former coup-maker Musharraf, and over shares/control of China’s highly touted Belt and Road Initiative’s Pakistan leg (called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, CPEC) boiled over in a protracted war of position between the civilian elite and military establishment.

Revelations in the Panama Papers of the Sharif family’s assets outside Pakistan triggered a series of court investigations and media trials, resulting in Nawaz Sharif’s legal disqualification and ouster from premiership in 2017. A hyper-active judiciary (the product of Pakistan’s last round of anti-dictatorship struggle in 2007-08), and an assertive military establishment found common cause in a highly selective “accountability” drive which, of course, excluded well-fed bureaucrats, judges and generals. This was combined with increasing encroachment of the military establishment in different spheres of governance and policy-making.

With the establishment’s deteriorating relationship with the strongman regime in Washington, accompanied by increased closeness to China, even a rhetorical commitment to procedural democracy and basic civil liberties has been abandoned at the altar of defending “national security.” Military operations in peripheral parts of Pakistan – such as Balochistan province and the Federally Administered “Tribal” Areas – for the past decade has already resulted in a situation resembling martial-law in these areas. Recently, the sphere of military operations was increased to Pakistan’s financial metropolis, Karachi ostensibly to “improve law and order” and clear the ground for incoming Chinese capital, while military courts were instituted to bypass the slothful criminal justice system and deal with “die-hard terrorists.” When the high-handedness of the security establishment came under criticism by popular, non-violent movements such as the Pashtun Tahaffuz (Protection) Movement (PTM), the program of press censorship and extra-judicial abductions of the military’s critics was expanded from the peripheral to the “core” areas of the country.

It is in this atmosphere of intimidation, censorship and “accountability,” that the country approached the July 25 elections. The incumbent N-league was brazenly suppressed, its leader Nawaz Sharif and his daughter jailed over corruption charges, while many leaders were reportedly forced to leave the party and/or join Khan’s PTI. The election process itself was marred by several irregularities: more than 350,000 army personnel were deployed inside and outside polling stations, the vote counting system suffered “technical difficulties” shortly after the end of polling, while the number of “rejected” votes was found to be greater than the winning margin in at least 35 constituencies. Ultimately, the PTI emerged as the largest party in parliament and, with the help of some independents and smaller parties, Imran Khan was elected Prime Minister.

PTI: Crisis and Populism

Khan and the PTI themselves are products of the changing balance of class forces in Pakistan. A celebrated former cricket captain and philanthropist, Khan started his political career as an anti-corruption crusader in 1996. His politics, though, really took off in the late 2000s as a burgeoning middle class, products of a liberalizing economy and expanding services sector, found in Khan a vehicle for their technocratic-meritocratic values and aspirations. Previously having found political articulation through the civil-military bureaucracy, the end of Gen Musharraf’s military rule was marked by a crisis of absorption of this burgeoning section of the population. This was accompanied, in the context of the so-called War on Terror, by an increasing exhaustion of the complex of exclusivist Islam and praetorianism which had provided ideological grist to the ruling bloc since the late 1970s.

The PTI represented a populist intervention in this crisis-ridden conjuncture: an economic program based on (nebulously defined) “anti-corruption” and decreasing leakage, appeals to an “Islamic” welfare state, and invocations of a “moderate” and urbane Islam best embodied in the popular perception and personality of Khan himself. The private media, professional associations, hyperactive internet forums, and charity initiatives (exemplified by Khan’s own free cancer hospital and foundation) became key apparatuses in the terrain of civil society, whereby the new middle class attempted to forge an “ethical-political” hegemony. In the absence of organized bases of working class power (such as labour and student unions), such institutional apparatuses have become crucial avenues for shaping and influencing Pakistan’s power politics.

However, while the fast growing, professional middle class (estimated to be upwards of 50 million out of a population of 220 million) formed the hegemonic core of the PTI, the structuring of the political terrain worked against its ascension to the corridors of state and executive power. Concentrated overwhelmingly in the urban core of the country, the middle-class base of the PTI was constantly frustrated in its attempts to attain the hegemony over space crucial for attaining power in constituency-based parliamentary politics. Khan and the PTI realised that dominance of social media and television airwaves is one thing, while dominance over (non-virtual) space is quite another. Something would have to give.

Such a re-structuring and spatial expansion of the PTI-project in the 2018 elections was attained through three crucial openings. Firstly, the influx of new – and especially young – voters on electoral rolls was almost completely absorbed by the PTI. While the two other major parties, PML-N and PPP, maintained their vote numbers from the 2013 election, the increase in the number of total votes cast for PTI (about 9.2m) exceeded the increase in number of votes cast in aggregate (about 7.6m). Second, the clash between the military-judicial establishment and the PML-N widened splits in the ruling elite, while subsequent terrain-engineering through suppression of rivals favoured the PTI’s election campaign. Third, and crucially, the PTI’s opening up to Pakistan’s landed and big capital elite, already underway since 2012, was vastly accelerated. Political brokers in rural and peri-urban constituencies – ever sensitive to the cajolements and directions of the establishmentarian breeze – pledged allegiance to Khan’s “anti-corruption” platform and boosted the spatial-social spread of PTI’s electorate. Thus, the PTI and Khan headed into elections with a terrain clearer than ever before, and with a set of social-spatial alliances which put it in prime position to finally translate its hegemony from the virtual spaces of the Internet to the corridors of parliamentary power.

Between Tragedy and Farce: The Pitfalls of Elite Politics

It is also within these openings for the PTI that the abject failures of Pakistan’s mainstream, incumbent parties can be glimpsed. Dominated by big capital, landed elites and political entrepreneurs, these parties have provided neither a voice to Pakistan’s burgeoning youth and middle class, nor an alternative model of development and redistribution beyond the crumbs falling from patronage networks. Parties (and governments) are run through kitchen cabinets dominated by brothers, daughters, cousins, and various assortments of kin mediated through blood and money. The parties’ leaderships and platforms have scarce representation/input from grassroots workers.

“Development” – where diverging from vertical patronage networks – is reduced to glitzy and high profile “mega-projects” and “model projects,” which grease the palms of brokers and contractors around party leaderships, while having little to no bearing on wider issues of social and geographic inequality. As such, mainstream parties’ attempts at hegemony in the name of the nation’s common interests and their quest to cut the military down to size in key spheres of policy-making, is regularly brought to heel due to their own lack of popular support and subsequent susceptibility to populist upsurges (such as that of the PTI’s).

It is exactly here, in both their desire to cut down on praetorian machinations and their structural, almost congenital inability to provide enough concessions to the masses for attaining the desired popular legitimacy, that all threats of “rejecting” elections and mass agitation from incumbent power holders in Pakistan came to naught. Further, these parties remain prey to more ambitious and ruthless contenders for power who can present themselves as acceptable to the ever-ready military establishment (as Imran Khan has positioned himself over the years).

In effect, we have an elite unwilling and almost incapable of living up to their own promises, and who fail to be hegemonic beyond superficial invocations to Islam, nationalism and ‘development’. For all their talk of ‘democracy’ and ‘civilian supremacy’ will come to naught until political parties, their modus operandi, and their wider social-economic platforms are re-structured into truly pro-people projects for all of Pakistan’s different nationalities. In the absence of such, the incumbent ruling classes resort to a politics of vertical patronage networks and high profile infrastructure projects to build a weakly hegemonic order, susceptible always to the manoeuvres and encroachments of a rapacious praetorian guard.

Fearing both the masses and the praetorian guard (for different reasons), they are forced to lean first on one and then on another for an always tenuous, often short-lived legitimacy. To channel the Marx of the Eighteenth Brumaire, Pakistan’s ruling classes are “bound to fear the stupidity of the masses so long as they remain conservative, and the insight of the masses as soon as they become revolutionary.” And thus is (formal) democracy in Pakistan, and the elites who have come to become its bearers, condemned to alternate between a sense of tragedy and a sense of farce.

The “Long March” through Civil and Political Society (or Lack Thereof)

Moreover, it is also in the (seemingly) oppositional, populist coalition forged by Khan that PTI’s politics is likely to find its Achilles Heel. For its fulfillment of promises of an Islamic “welfare” state, Khan will have to tax big business which is amply represented in his party’s inner circles. For its promise of building thousands of homes for the lower middle class and the poor, Khan will have to contend with Pakistan’s highly influential real estate mafia (including the military and party luminaries). For the promise of instituting an egalitarian educational system in Pakistan, he will have to contend with organized interests around privatization of education (which, paradoxically, Khan’s middle class base itself is a product of). For his promise of having equitable and friendly relations with neighbouring countries, he must confront the myopic and isolationist calculations of Pakistan’s military establishment. Add to that the pressures of increasing oil prices, leading to rising import bills, a declining export and manufacturing base, decreasing remittances, and the program of cost-cutting and privatization which is sure to be part of a looming IMF bailout.

It is for the fulfillment of these promises that a vast, emerging and young section of Pakistan’s population has pinned its hopes on the PTI and Imran Khan. The danger, of course, remains that in trying and failing to tie together so many varied interests and promises, Khan and his party may resort to the campaign trail rhetoric of “enemies” and “traitors” to paper over contradictions and shore up the party’s support base. Keeping in mind the shifting imperial mooring of the Pakistani state, the general (pun-intended) air of political suppression in the lead-up to elections, Khan’s history of exclusivist rhetoric, and his well-publicised personality traits of aloofness and narcissism, Pakistan’s descent into further authoritarianism cannot be ruled out.

For the short-term though, Khan’s political capital and support among increasing and influential sections of the state and society will see him through. What happens to Khan and Pakistan’s latest populist moment in the long-term is, of course, a matter of political practice and down to the mode of incorporation of middle and lower classes in the country’s changing ruling bloc.

However, we can find clues to the long-term future of PTI’s politics and the changing ruling bloc in Pakistan a focus on the question of class alliances. In their quest for social and spatial hegemony, the new middle class (and the PTI) have made a strategic choice: to forge alliances with prevailing ruling classes and oligarchic state institutions (such as the military) over the subaltern classes of Pakistan. Such a strategic choice is of course conditioned by a conjuncture marked by the virtual absence of sustained working class organization in Pakistan.

In effect, what we have is a passive revolution-type situation: a Bonapartist state and a ruling bloc in crisis is attempting to absorb an upsurge from outside the prevailing ruling bloc, with a new material-ideological hegemonic project based on “development” (through Chinese capital) and a reformulated complex of Islam and praetorianism.

As far as such dubious class alliances preclude a more progressive social-political project, the PTI and Khan are left to deal in high-sounding bluster and populist rhetoric. The “long march” through the trenches and ditches of civil society, so crucial for a viable hegemonic project centered on the popular classes, has been assiduously avoided, compromises have been made, and silence adopted toward key reactionary forces and institutions in the domains of civil and political society. For example, while Khan’s compromises with the military establishment have already been mentioned, a telling silence and even an accommodating stance was adopted toward fascist forces such as various Islamist groups organized around persecution of minorities and religious heterodoxy. With no progressive constituency to fall upon, and the ruling elite’s international legitimacy in tatters due to their profligate ways and geopolitical (mis)adventures, Khan and the PTI remain beholden to oligarchic elites and institutions, and reactionary forces are expected to gain strength.

As such, in his one month in power, Khan has vacillated on issues such as approaching the IMF, and over accommodating religious minorities in government. Mad-cap schemes of building mega-dams through “donations” by diaspora Pakistanis have been introduced, while the Chief of Army Staff has doubled down on the “indispensability” of CPEC and growing economic and security alliance with China. Moves are also afoot for a reduction of financial autonomy for the provinces ostensibly to free up resources for ever-increasing security expenditures. This, if followed through, will do with grievous harm to Pakistan’s already weak federalism. Combine this with the continuing attack on civil liberties and the poor state of labour and women in the country, and any progressive agenda that the PTI might have brandished seems far from the horizon.

It is also in the question of class alliances and the “long march” through the trenches of civil society which provides a useful barometer of comparison to other iterations of right-wing populism, such as (to take two examples) in Turkey and India. While in some respects, the PTI has a very similar professional middle class core as the BJP’s reformulated, Modi-ised hegemonic project in the post-Babri Masjid era, right-wing populisms in both Turkey and India differ from Pakistan in key ways. For one, and notwithstanding their more recent troubles, the current regimes in both Turkey and India are based on much longer and more deep-rooted genealogies of (post-)Islamist and Hindutva organizing, respectively. The AKP (and its previous analogues) have rootedness in long-standing Islamist political traditions in Turkey and beyond, a socially-temporally greater anchorage in the Anatolian bazar classes, and key bases of support among Turkey’s urbanizing poor mobilized through Muslim Brotherhood-style service delivery and patronage networks over the last three to four decades. On the other hand, the RSS-BJP combine is the very personification of the long-standing fascist project in India, and have been strategically cultivating Hindutva fundamentalism in the spheres of civil and political society for close to a century now. Thus, unlike the PTI and its professional middle class core, projects of religious conservatism and populism in India and Turkey are distinguished by their “long march” through the trenches of civil and political society, and thus much greater anchorage for their respective hegemonic projects within the ambit of the “integral state.”

In comparison, while the middle class itself in Pakistan is a rising force both demographically and socially, its hegemonic project has nowhere near the sophistication and deep-rootedness of its Turkish and Indian counterparts. As such, the social and spatial coordinates of the PTI’s hegemonic project remain relatively shallow and beholden to other reactionary forces in civil and political society (such as the military and various Islamist groups), and thus much more vulnerable to challenges. In this context, while the sharpening of the passive revolutionary project may herald an even greater resort to coercion and political suppression, the tenuous hegemony also provides contradictions and spaces (both literally and metaphorically) for the intervention of alternative (progressive) forces. This of course remains difficult because of the absence of viable left and labour organization after the historic fall of the Left in Pakistan from the high era of the 1960s and 70s. In a sense then, the traditions of long dead generations really do weigh like a nightmare on the brains of the living.

Weak Sutures, Tenuous Hegemony

Stuart Hall once likened the practice of hegemony within a disequilibrium-wracked capitalism as the process of “suturing” wounds which continually appear in the body politic, in civil society, and in the economy. The process of managing contradictions is one where the festering-expanding wounds of the body politic are sutured, until the many sutures themselves fall apart and a new hegemonic project with different kinds of suturing must be instituted to manage the disequilibrium and its wounds.

Crises in capitalism rarely appear as all-encompassing crises of the whole system. More often, crises in different spaces, regions, and/or nations and at different, mutually constitutive/conditioning levels of the system (such as the economic, political, ideological etc.) develop in their own time and with their own temporality. As such, an effective hegemonic project and a viable hegemonic force must serve to suture together these different levels, their crises, and their different temporalities.

In Pakistan, wracked as we are by multi-level and multi-spatial crises, when the weak suturing of the latest (tenuous) hegemonic project starts to come off, we will be left adrift in search of an organized social force which can represent and, in effect, suture that crisis. It is here that the absence of a viable progressive force will be, and is being, sorely felt. For those who aim to rebuild the devastated bases of working class power in Pakistan, the task remains not only to read the conjuncture in all its complexity, but to find the openings, slippages and contradictions which can unravel the prevailing historic bloc in favour of a new, substantively democratic one. For the foreseeable future though, with no viable organization to effectively represent our multi-level crises, with no effective suturing force on the horizon, the time, as the old Bard put it, remains truly out of joint.

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Ayyaz Mallick is a doctoral candidate and member of the Awami Workers’ Party. He is a contributing member of Jamhoor magazine.

All images in this article are from the author.

Industrialism and business as usual is the path to ecological destruction.

Imperative task for the 21st century is to move toward a sustainable ecological civilization.

Working definition in a market society of ecological civilization (or ecocivilization) is to make economic growth mean ecological improvement through the pursuit of sustainability.

This means the pursuit of profit must result in a reduction in pollution, depletion and ecological damage and a restoration of the living world or so-called natural capital.

To accomplish this requires new market rules, laws, regulations for the market to send clear price signals for sustainability. Sustainable good and services must become cheaper than comparable polluting goods and services; gain market share; become more profitable than polluting alternatives.

A sustainable social order must also be just and fair. Long term success of a sustainable social order cannot be based on wealth and waste by a minority and poverty and depravation by the majority.

Therefore, a sustainable social order must encompass ecological and social justice and a global convergence on a decent life for all globally.

Thus the market rules, laws, and regulations of an ecological civilization must define by law, and constitutional amendment if necessary, for that fiduciary responsibility means the pursuit of ecological improvement and sustainability as result of actions and support for social and ecological justice by individuals, business, non-profits, and government

Sustainability is a basic co-evolutionary force between the ecosphere and the planet where the ecosphere in response to all changes behaves in ways that re-shapes the planet in the interest of life.

Self-conscious human action has become a crucial part of sustainability as an expression of the dynamic of sustainability that has shaped the earth and life from oxygen atmosphere to soil.

The global transformation to an ecological civilization cannot rely upon action from government or Paris Climate Conferences. Action by each of us where we live, work, go to school is crucial.

The ecological transformation must address all aspects of human action including industry, agriculture, aquaculture, forestry.

Addressing climate change is a necessary and urgent focus for the pursuit of sustainability to bring human related greenhouse gas emissions as fast as possible to a sustainable level.

This means concrete reductions to about 3 tons of carbon equivalent emissions per per person per year or 21 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalents per person year for a population of 7 billion, and at the same time remove carbon dioxide from atmosphere and ocean through sequestration in biomass and in soil in similar amounts of 3 tons per person per year to reach a pre-industrial level of under 300 parts per million of carbon dioxide.

Methane as powerful green house gas is a crucial and accessible target for immediate action in addition to carbon dioxide action.

The global average of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions is about 5.4. But the average of big and rich polluters is much higher and poor nations often much much lower, already far below 3 tons per person per year. For example in the U.S the average is around 17 tons per person per year.

Each of us as individuals, families, neighborhoods, towns, cities, states need to develop and implement our own long-term plans for 3 tons of carbon per person year emissions and 3 tons of carbon per person per year sequestration.

A reasonable planning horizon is eight four years plans totalling 32 years to reach these goals by 2040.

The place to start is where we are. The first step is to understand our carbon dioxide and other green house gas emissions and then to make plans to reduce it and make economic growth mean ecological improvement.

Transforming fossil fuel energy globally to renewable resources is the best example of ecological economic growth leading to ecological improvement. This means trillions of productive investment that create jobs, strong communities.

There are similar opportunities in almost all aspects of ur lives for productive and transformative ecological investment.

Our plans will inform what tools we need to accomplish these tasks, for example, revolving loans funds, community revenue bonds to invest in sustainability, tax credits, ability to take advantage of tax equity financing on a community level. Financing engineering can be democratized and employed for ecological ends.

Good tools are available on line from WRI (World Resource Institute, see this) to determine local carbon dioxide equivalent emissions and to use that information to build plans for the future and make relevant choices.

Now is the time for us to take action and make our communities a model for others around the globe to follow. The future is very much in our hands. We need no permission from Washington or elsewhere to start moving toward a sustainable ecological future now.

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Roy Morrison‘s latest book is Sustainability Sutra Select Books, NY 2017. He builds solar farms.

The Real Confrontation Is Yet To Come

There has been a spate of articles recently on the ten year anniversary of the financial collapse. We wrote about this anniversary two weeks ago, describing the cause of the collapse and the reasons why we are still at risk for another one. Now, we look at how the aftermath of the collapse is shaping current politics, people’s views on the economic system and the conflict that lies ahead to create an economy for the 21st Century.

The Aftershocks Of The Collapse Are Still Being Felt

Jerome Roos of ROAR Magazine writes that the response to the 2008 crash – bailing out the banks but not the people – led to unrest across the globe, beginning with the Arab Spring, and a growing anti-capitalist sentiment. He goes on to say, “It has recently begun to consolidate itself in the form of vibrant grassroots movements, progressive political formations and explicitly socialist candidacies that collectively seek to challenge the untrammeled power and privileges of the ‘1 percent’ from below.”

The stagnant economy, austerity measures and resulting increased debt have opened a space for people to search for and try out alternative economic structures that are more democratic. They have also created conditions for a rise of nationalism on the right. Roos concludes that the “real confrontation is yet to come.”

In the United States, the economic conditions have revived populist movements on both the right and the left. Gareth Porter explains the Democratic and Republican parties are aware of the great dissatisfaction with their failed policies and know they need to try to appease the public by trying new policies, but they don’t know how.

He points to recent joint papers put out by the Center for American Progress, a Democratic Party think tank, and the American Enterprise Institute, a Republican Party think tank. One from May is called, “Drivers of Authoritarian Populism in the United States,” and the other from July is called, “Partnership in Peril: The Populist Assault on the TransAtlantic Community.” In the papers, rather than present alternative solutions, they attack Jill Stein of the Green Party and Bernie Sanders, a Democratic Socialist.

There is a battle inside the Democratic Party between progressives, some who call themselves socialists, and the dominant business-friendly corporatists. As Miles Kampf-Lessin writes,

“An August poll shows that, for the first time since Gallup started asking the question 10 years ago, Democrats now view socialism more favorably than capitalism.”

But the Democratic Party has been deaf to the interests of its constituents for decades. At meetings organized by centrist Democratic Party groups this summer, lacking populist solutions, the best they could come up with was “the center is sexier than you think.” And while a few “progressives” in the Democratic Party won their primaries, they are not receiving support from the party. Instead, the party leaders are throwing their weight behind security state Democrats, who could make up half of newly-elected Democrats this November.

In the Republican Party, Donald Trump’s faux populism has shown itself to be a sham. The Republican Party is unable to handle Trump, who defeated a series of elitist candidates starting with the next heir of the royal Bush family, Jeb. A record number of Republicans have given up and decided not to run for re-election. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan saw the writing on the wall and said he wanted to spend time with his family.

The 2018 election will bring change as Republican control of both Chambers of Congress are at risk, especially the House, but this is unlikely to resolve the crises the country is facing. Democrats are more focused on going after Trump. We can expect a flood of subpoenas investigating all aspects of his administration and business, rather than solutions to the economic and social crises.

Image on the right: From Catholic News USA.

What The People Are Demanding

There is a growing anti-capitalist revolt, especially against the form it has taken in the United States, i.e. neoliberalism that privatizes everything for the profit of a few while cutting essential services for the many.  Anti-capitalism is so widespread that even corporate media outlets like Politico are taking notice, as they did in an article describing what socialism would look like in the United States. And President Obama this week discovered “a great new idea,” Medicare for all.

Of course, there has been a movement for National Improved Medicare for All for decades, and it is now gaining momentum. A new poll found even a majority of Republicans support Medicare for all, as do 85% of Democrats. Out of all of the ‘wealthy’ nations, the United States is ranked at the bottom, only above Greece, when it comes to the percentage of the population that has healthcare coverage. The third poorest country in our hemisphere, Bolivia, announced this week it will provide healthcare for all.

While polls indicate increased support for socialism, in the United States there is a lack of clarity on what that means exactly. Rather than a state socialism, most people are advocating for policy changes that socialize the basic necessities of the people. National Improved Medicare for All is one example.  There is also increased pressure for community-controlled or municipal Internet, taking this critical public service out of the hands of the much-hated for-profit providers.

Other demands include a living wage, free college education and affordable housing. There is also increased advocacy for a universal basic income and for public banks. All of these socialized programs can and do exist in capitalist countries.

From Prout.org

Creating Economic Democracy For The 21st Century

The new economy is still taking shape and will likely result from a process of trying new practices out and gradually replacing current economic institutions with the new ones that gain support. The new institutions will need to be radically different than the current ones, meaning they are rooted in different values, if they are to change the current system.

In Policy Options, Tracy Smith Carrier urges using a human rights framework for the new economy. The human rights principles are universality, equity, transparency, accountability and participation. Rather than charity, which doesn’t solve the problems that brought people into a situation of need, her research team advocates for putting in place a poverty-reduction strategy that targets “the building blocks of society that reproduce poverty.”

This past week, we interviewed economist Emily Kawano of the US Solidarity Economy Network for our podcast, Clearing the FOG. The episode is called “So You Want To End Capitalism, Here’s How.” Like the human rights framework, the solidarity economy is built on a set of principles: democracy, cooperation, equity, anti-oppression, sustainability and pluralism. Kawano describes the formation of the solidarity economy using the analogy of a caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a butterfly – the various pieces of the economy are forming and finding each other and may eventually coalesce into a new system composed of old and new elements.

This week on Clearing the FOG, we will publish an interview with Nathan Schneider, author of “Everything for Everyone: The Radical Tradition that is Shaping the New Economy.” Schneider acknowledges that his generation is the first one that will fare worse than its predecessors. Out of necessity, people are creating more democratic economic structures. The Internet is a helpful tool in the process, particularly in creating ‘platform cooperatives.’

The economy needs to move from concentrated wealth to shared economic prosperity. In addition to requiring specific changes in policy that lead to greater socialization of the economy, systemic changes will be needed to establish a cooperative and egalitarian economy. Without far-reaching changes to the structure of the state, they are highly unlikely to succeed.

There will be another economic crisis in the near future which will present opportunities for rapid transformational change, if the movement is organized to demand it. JP Morgan issued a report on the tenth anniversary of the collapse warning of another collapse and mass social unrest like the US has not seen in 50 years. It is up to us now to prepare for that moment by developing our vision for the future and working out the types of institutions that will bring it about. The other option, if we are not prepared, could bring fascism and greater repression.

As Jerome Roos concludes, “…the political fallout of the global financial crisis is only just getting started. The real confrontation, it seems, is yet to come.”

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Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers co-direct Popular Resistance where this article was originally published.

Selected Articles: Global Climate Instability?

September 17th, 2018 by Global Research News

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Do not send us money. Under Plan A, we call upon our readers to donate 5 minutes a day to Global Research.

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US War Strategists: Military Defeats and Political Success

By Prof. James Petras, September 17, 2018

US war strategists’ operations reflect ‘dual loyalties’. On the one-hand they receive their elite education and high positions in the US, while their political loyalties to Tel Aviv express their Israel First strategic decisions.

John Bolton Escalates Blackmail against ICC to Shield US War Criminals

By Prof. Marjorie Cohn, September 17, 2018

Once again, the United States is blackmailing countries that would send Americans to face justice in the International Criminal Court. Trump’sNational Security Adviser John Bolton is leading the charge to shield US and Israeli war criminals from legal accountability.

Prayers: For Our Sins as Individuals and as a Society

By Michael Lerner, September 17, 2018

These Prayers by Rabbi Michael Lerner constitute a powerful and far-reaching humanitarian message, coupled with an accurate and incisive analysis of the unfolding global crisis. The prayers call upon people to act in solidarity with one another, to reverse the tide of war, human suffering and environmental collapse, to take a stance against social inequality, racism and xenophobia

Who is Osama bin Laden. Interview with Michel Chossudovsky

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky and Philip A Farruggio, September 17, 2018

A few hours after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, the Bush administration concluded without supporting evidence, that “Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda organisation were prime suspects”. CIA Director George Tenet stated that bin Laden has the capacity to plan “multiple attacks with little or no warning.”

Our Planet Is Angry

By Sonali Kolhatkar, September 17, 2018

We aren’t necessarily seeing more large storms. We’re seeing the usual storm activity jumping into overdrive, as The Washington Post’s Chris Mooney described how “[i]n little more than a day, Hurricane Florence exploded in strength, jumping from a Category 1 to a Category 4 behemoth with 140 mph winds.”

A Record Seven Named Storms Are Swirling Across the Globe. Global Climate Instability? Has ‘the Day After Tomorrow’ Arrived?

By Michael Snyder, September 17, 2018

Is something extremely unusual happening to our planet?  At this moment, Hurricane Florence is just one of seven named storms that are currently circling the globe.

The Bluffer’s Guide to Bombing Syria

By Peter Ford, September 17, 2018

The propaganda mills of the British and American governments – spokespersons, media, think tanks – are working overtime churning out ‘talking points’ to justify the upcoming large scale bombing of Syria on the pretext of use of prohibited weapons.

Prayers: For Our Sins as Individuals and as a Society

September 17th, 2018 by Michael Lerner

These Prayers by Rabbi Michael Lerner constitute a powerful and far-reaching humanitarian message, coupled with an accurate and incisive analysis of the unfolding global crisis.

What Rabbi Lerner puts forth is an understanding of the World we live in. 

The prayers call upon people across the land nationally and internationally to act in solidarity with one another, to reverse the tide of war, human suffering and environmental collapse, to take a stance as individuals and communities against social inequality, racism and xenophobia: 

 “For the sin of believing “homeland security” can be achieved through military, political, diplomatic, cultural, or economic domination of the world rather than through a strategy of generosity and caring for the people of the world?”

And for the sin of seeing every use of violence as “terrorism” except American use of violence in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Korea, Vietnam, and the violence we used to achieve our ends around the world and in the US;

…by allowing a global capitalist system and its media to uproot traditional societies and impose the values of the capitalist market system, fostering materialism and selfishness around the world, supporting dictatorships that would give American corporations freedom to exploit the resources of other countries…

The prayers are in many regards a call to social struggle and political activism.

Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, September 17, 2018

(Emphasis added)

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We take collective responsibility for our own lives and for the activities of the community and society of which we are a part. We affirm our fundamental interdependence and interconnectedness. We have allowed others to be victims, subject to incredible suffering; we have turned our backs on others and their well-being—today we acknowledge that this world is co-created by all of us, and so we atone for all of its miseries and injustices. In our atonement process, we do not seek to blame others for what they have done wrong, though there are many who do wrong—our task is to focus on ourselves  and our personal lives, and on our own religious, ethnic, and national communities in which we live and for which we have special responsibility.

While the struggle to change ourselves and our world may be long and painful, it is our own struggle; no one else can do it for us. To the extent that we have failed to do all that we could to make ourselves and our community all that we ought to be, we ask each other for forgiveness–and we now commit ourselves to transformation this coming year, as we seek to get back on the path to our highest possible selves.

For the Sins:

Sing together:

Ve’al kulam Elo-high seh’lee-chot, seh’lach lanu, meh’chal lanu, ka’peyr lanu

For all these ways we have missed the mark, we ask the spiritual reality of the universe to forgive, us pardon us, accept our atonement! 

For the sins we have committed before you and in our communities by being so preoccupied with ourselves that we ignored the larger problems of the world;

And for the sins we have committed by being so directed toward outward realities that we have ignored our spiritual development;

For the sins of allowing our government to put terror into the lives of undocumented workers and refugees rather than to open our borders and our hearts to those fleeing oppression and extreme poverty elsewhere;

And for the sins of dismantling environmental regulations that sought to restrain corporations or individuals from doing more damage to an already endangered planetary life support system;

For the sins of allowing our government to weaken the capacity of working people to obtain reasonable pay and benefits at work;

And for the sins of not spending more time and energy in defeating elected officials who support racist, sexist, classist, homophobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic, age-ist,  and/or anti-Semitic policies and who contribute to the emergence of violence and hatred in our society;

For the sins committed by allowing a global capitalist system and its media to uproot traditional societies and impose the values of the capitalist market system, fostering materialism and selfishness around the world, supporting dictatorships that would give American corporations freedom to exploit the resources of other countries, dump waste materials, in the process impoverishing or maintaining in poverty many societies, and then being outraged when people responded with violence or by embracing reactionary forms of religion or nationalism as a way of retaining a sense of community against the extreme individualism that the marketplace fostered and the Western media preached as the highest form of psychological and intellectual development;

And for the sin of seeing every use of violence as “terrorism” except American use of violence in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Korea, Vietnam, and the violence we used to achieve our ends around the world and in the US;

For failing to prosecute those in our government who enabled the torture of prisoners around the world and in American detention centers in the Obama years, and who denied them habeas corpus and other fundamental human rights—and for then “being surprised” when torture and other forms of abuse threatened to again become offically allowable in the Trump years;

And for the sin of not demanding that our elected representatives provide affordable health care and prescription drug coverage for everyone in the Obama years, and then “being surprised” when people lost faith in Obamacare as insurance companies raised the prices of health insurance and pharmaceutical companies priced medications beyond what many could afford to pay;

Sing together:

Ve’al kulam Elo-high seh’lee-chot, seh’lach lanu, meh’chal lanu, ka’peyr lanu

For all these ways we have missed the mark, we ask the spiritual reality of the universe to forgive, us pardon us, accept our atonement!

For the sin of not demanding dramatic changes that are needed to save the planet and lessen the power of big money to shape our democratic process, so that it no longer primarily serves the interests of the corporations and the wealthy, and the sin of watching passively as the Trump Administration dismantles the most important environmental and social justice protections initiated in the past 80 years;

And for the sin of dismissing the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the US Constitution (ESRA) as “unrealistic” while embracing lesser struggles for constitutional amendments far less likely to make a dent in the power of the 1 percent or to significantly restrain the ethical and environmental arrogance of the large corporations;

For the sin of those of us in the West hoarding the world’s wealth and not sharing with the 2.5 billion people who live on less than two dollars a day;

And for the sin of supporting, through consumption and complicity, forms of globalization that are destructive to nature and to the economic well-being of the powerless;

For the sins of all who became so concerned with “making it” and becoming rich that they pursued banking and investment policies that were destructive not only to their investors but to the entire society;

And for the sins of blaming all Muslims for the extremism of a few and ignoring the extremism and violence emanating from our own society, which continues to use drones to kill people suspected of being involved in supporting terrorism;

For the sin of being cynical about the possibility of building a world based on love;

And for the sin of dulling our outrage at the continuation of poverty, oppression, and violence in this world;

For the sin of believing “homeland security” can be achieved through military, political, diplomatic, cultural, or economic domination of the world rather than through a strategy of generosity and caring for the people of the world (e.g. in creating a Global Marshall Plan to once and for all eliminate global and domestic poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate health care, and inadequate education);

And for the sin of believing that we can get money out of politics as long as corporations have the right to move their investments abroad to any place where they can find cheap labor or lax environmental laws, the threat of which is sufficient to have them get their way in American politics;

For the sin of not being vigilant stewards of the planet and instead allowing the water resources of the world to be bought up by private companies for private profit, energy companies to pollute the air, water, and ground, and allowing endless consumption to waste the earth’s scarce resources and contribute to the rapidly increasing climate change;

And for the sin of allowing military spending and tax cuts for the rich to undermine our society’s capacity to take care of the poor, the powerless, the young, and the aging, both in the US and around the world;

For the sin of not doing enough to challenge racist, sexist, and homophobic institutions and practices;

And for the sin of turning our backs on the world’s refugees and on the homeless in our own society, allowing them to be demeaned, assaulted, and persecuted, and in 2018 the sin of our country separating children of refugees from their parents and putting them into horrific cages while treating their parent refugees in horrific ways;

For the sin of acting as though those who do not share our understanding of the need to fundamentally change our economic and political arrangements are either evil, dumb, deplorable, or without moral consciousness: thus shaming and blaming all of the tens of millions of people who did not support progressive policies and office seekers;

And for the sin of making people who have different cultural, religious or intellectual proclivities from our own feel that we are looking down on them;

For the sin of abandoning the Jewish prophetic tradition by refusing to address in our synagogues, churches, mosques or zendo or other spiritual gatherings the distortions of our economic system and the evil choices being made by our political leaders, or the leaders of Israel, on the grounds that doing so would offend some people, or cause splits in our communities, instead of listening to Abraham Joshua Heschel’s teaching that our responsibility is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

Sing together:

Ve’al kulam Elo-high seh’lee-chot, seh’lach lanu, meh’chal lanu, ka’peyr lanu

For all these ways we have missed the mark, we ask the spiritual reality of the universe to forgive, us pardon us, accept our atonement!

For the sin of believing the myth that we live in a meritocracy and that therefore those who are “less successful” than us (either economically or in some other way) are actually less deserving;

And for the sin of not recognizing that the pain people feel (that leads many of them to religious or nationalist fundamentalist movements) is in large part related to not being adequately respected or cared for, recognized and cherished;

For the sin of not taking the time to train ourselves with empathic skills and reach out to those who share different world views and to try to find that which is beautiful in them or that which is in pain and needs to be healed;

And for the sin of not responding with empathy to people whose pain has led them in reactionary directions, even as we rightly continue to oppose their concrete political actions and resist oppressive or evil policies of our government;

For the sin of not taking seriously the horrific sexual abuse faced by so many women and not developing educational methods to challenge sexism in our economic, political, cultural and social life;

And for the sin of not taking seriously the horrific abuse faced by African Americans, Native Americans, and most people of color in our society’ and developing educational methods to challenge racism in our economic, political, cultural and social life, and not protesting more vigorously at the way our national government has been conspiring to reduce the rights and protections of these minorities;

For the sin of talking as though being white or being male makes all of us or them somehow wrongly privileged, thereby ignoring the huge differences in advantage between rich white males and middle income working people and poor people;

And for the sin of making men or white people feel guilty for crimes that some men and some whites have done but not all men or all whites;

For the sin of not having been involved in electoral politics sufficiently to have elected U.S. Senators who would block the nomination of reactionary judges to the federal courts and the Supreme Court who have already dismantled the voting rights that allowed African Americans and other people of color and poor people to vote, given corporations the rights intended by the Constitution only for human beings, and soon will be in a posiiton to further weaken civil and human rights, enviornmental and worker protections, separation of church and state, and including the right of women to have easy access to terminate unwanted and/or dangerous pregnancies in their own localities.

And for the sin of not reaching out to neighbors and coworkers to share with them our ideas about the kind of world we really want, not just the world we are against!;

For the sin of being so concerned about our own personal tax benefits that we failed to oppose tax cuts that would bankrupt social services;

And for the sin of not taking the leaflets or not opening the emails of those who tried to inform us of events that required our moral attention;

For the sin of thinking that attending a march or demonstration for the environment or against sexism or racism or in opposition to war, is enough, without engaging in active ongoing support for fundamental changes,

And for the sin of not putting our money behind those organizations and publications which articulate the ideals we support

Sing together:

Ve’al kulam Elo-high seh’lee-chot, seh’lach lanu, meh’chal lanu, ka’peyr lanu

For all these ways we have missed the mark, we ask the spiritual reality of the universe to forgive, us pardon us, accept our atonement!

For the sin of missing opportunities to support in public the political, religious, spiritual, or ethical teachers who actually inspire us and whose teachings would help others;

And for the sin of being passive recipients of negativity or listening and allowing others to spread hurtful stories about the personal lives of others;

For the sin of being “realistic” when our Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, secular humanist and other traditions call upon us to transform reality rather than accept it as it is;

And for the sin of being too attached to, too complacent about our own picture of how our lives should be–and never taking the risks that could bring us a more fulfilling and meaningful life.

For the sins of not showing up for our friends when they really needed our physical presence, or psychological support or love,

And for the sins of making friends primarily to advance our own interests rather than to really care for them, and for failing to see most people in our lives us as embodiments of the sacred;

For the sins we have committed by not forgiving our parents for the wrongs they committed against us when we were children;

And for the sin of having too little compassion, nor too little respect for our parents, our children, or our friends when they acted in ways that disappointed or hurt us;

For the sin of holding grudges and not forgiving those who have personally offended us,

And for the sin of “lashon ha’ra,” spreading negative stories about others,

For the sin of cooperating with self-destructive or addictive behavior in others or in ourselves;

And for the sin of not supporting each other as we attempt to change;

For the sin of being jealous and trying to possess and control those we love;

And for the sin of being judgmental when others need compassion;

For the sin of withholding love and support;

And for the sin of doubting our ability to love and get love from others;

For the sin of talking over women or not giving them adequate support to express their needs or insights,

And for the sin of ignoring the needs of people of color, or finding them scary or dangerous,

For the sin of insisting that everything we do have a payoff;

And for the sin of not allowing ourselves to play;

For the sin of not giving our partners and friends the love and support they need to feel safe and to flourish;

And for the sin of being manipulative or hurting others to protect our own egos.

Sing together:

Ve’al kulam Elo-high seh’lee-chot, seh’lach lanu, meh’chal lanu, ka’peyr lanu

For all these ways we have missed the mark, we ask the spiritual reality of the universe to forgive, us pardon us, accept our atonement!

For the sin of seeing anti-Semitism everywhere, and using the charge of anti-Semitism to silence those who raise legitimate (though often painful to hear) criticisms of Israeli policies;

And for the sin of not challenging people who deny or underestimate the real dangers of anti-Semitism as it comes out of hiding in Europe and North America, refusing to recognize that Jews have much historical reasons to worry about this as one of the oldest and most persistent and historically murderous forms of racism;

For the sin of letting the entire Jewish people take the rap for oppressive policies,  inexcusable and vicious acts of murder, harassment, denial of human rights, and repression by the most reactionary and human rights-denying government the State of Israel has ever had;

And for the sin of blaming the entire Palestinian people for (inexcusable and vicious) acts of violence, kidnapping, and murder by a handful of terrorists;

For the sins that Israel committed by stealing West Bank Palestinian land and access to West Bank water; by creating settlements of ultra-nationalists who regularly harass Palestinian children, uprooting olive trees, and otherwise intensify the evils of occupation; and for imposing checkpoints for Palestinians and building West Bank roads that are only available for Jewish Israelis; and by taxing West Bank Palestinians while not allowing them to vote in Israeli elections, and then pretending to be on a higher moral  level than the Palestinian people;

For the sin of not mobilizing against the new “Nationality Law” in Israel which asserts that Israel is the state of Jews and not of all its citizens who are Christian, Muslim and other religions and ethnicities and allows Jews to create communities, cities, towns, villages, kibbutzim that are explicitly only for Jews, moving Israel much closer to being an apartheid state;

And for the sin of not protesting more loudly and publicly when Prime Minister Netanyahu claims that he and Israel speak for all Jews everywhere in the world, thereby increasing the credibility of anti-Semites who can use the immorality of Israel’s policies to legitimate their hatred of all Jews in the world;

For the sin of being silent when Israel prevents women from publicly reading Torah together at the Temple Wall in Jerusalem, and in dozens of other ways dismissing and disempowering non-Orthodox forms of Judaism and not allowing non-Orthodox rabbis from performing weddings and other important elements of Jewish religious life events, and preventing gays and lesbians to participate in surrogacy;

And for the sin of calling Israel “the Jewish state” when it so clearly violates Jewish ethical traditions, most significantly the most frequent command in Torah to “love the stranger” (the Other, the Refugee, the powerless);

And for the sin of not challenging the Jewish institutions and leaders who provide constant defense of oppressive Israeli policies that they would themselves oppose if these policies were to be imposed on the Jewish people;

For the sin of being liberal on everything except Israel, which characterizes many in the Jewish world and in the Democratic Party and many other liberal or progressive political parties;

And for the sin of supporting Jewish organizations that support social justice and/or environmental sanity or an end to racism in the US but refuse to allow discussion much less involvement in these same issues when people ask them to address the struggle for freedom or equal rights and dignity of the Palestinian people;

For the sins of tribalism, chauvinism, and other forms of identity politics that lead us to think that our pain (in whatever ethnicity, race, religion, gender, sexual preference, nationality) is more important than anyone else’s pain;

For the sin of allowing people on the Left to only see Israel’s sins without recognizing also the huge amount of good in Israel;

And for the sin of portraying Israel’s human rights abuses as the worst in the world or the only one worth focusing on, when in fact Israel’s inexcusable and immoral human  rights abuses are far less than what in endured by the untouchables of India, the Rohingya in Myanamar, the treatement of women and minorities in many Muslim states (particularly in the U.S. ally Saudi Arabia), the repression of Buddhism by China in Tibet,  the treatment of  many of minorities in Russia, the brutal assaults on people seeking refuge in Europe, and of course, the ongoing saga of racism in the U.S. its police brutality, and its school to prison pipeline for African American young men!

And for the sin of allowing communal institutions, colleges and universities, government and politics, the media, and the entertainment industry to be shaped by those with the most money, rather than those with the most spiritual and ethical sensitivity;

For the sin of not removing ourselves once a week from the “getting and spending” of the capitalist marketplace—by giving ourselves the joy and spiritual and physical refreshment that comes from celebrating a 25 hour Shabbat, either with a community or with friends and family;

An for the sin of not learning more about the spiritual, intellectual and psychological wisdom inherent in the Jewish tradition, its teachings, its prayers, its ritual practices—rejecting the childhood versions we were taught at young children but never exposing ourselves to far more sophisticated and soul-nourishing versions of Judaism available to us as adults.

For the sin of not giving more energy and time to the Jewish spiritual community whose services or activities we attend;

And for the sin of not creating a Jewish spiritual community with services and activities we can enthusiastically support if the existing communities around us do not provide us with the spiritual/political integration, psychological depth, intellectual sophistication, Jewish wisdom, and prophetic empathy and activism that will in fact nourish our souls (even if that requires making an effort to build and sustain it);

For the sin of not putting our money and our time behind our highest ideals, and not aligning our intentions with our actions.

And for the sin of thinking that our path is the only path to spiritual truth;

For the sin of not recognizing and celebrating (with awe and wonder) the beauty and grandeur of the universe that surrounds us and permeates us;

And for the sin of focusing only on our sins and not on our strengths and beauties;

For the sin of not transcending ego so we could see ourselves and each other as we really are: already enough, beautiful beings,  a part of the Unity of All Being, and a manifestation on this planet of God’s/the universe’s  loving energy;

And for not seeing the beauty in everyone around us and the magnificence of this universe in which we are blessed to have a little time before we pass on and others take up our place on this awesome planet Earth.

Sing together:

Ve’al kulam Elo-high seh’lee-chot, seh’lach lanu, meh’chal lanu, ka’peyr lanu

For all these ways we have missed the mark, we ask the spiritual reality of the universe to forgive, us pardon us, accept our atonement!

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This article was originally published on Tikkun Magazine.

Written by Rabbi Michael Lerner  for the Tikkun community, Beyt Tikkun Synagogue, and the interfaith and secular-humanist-welcoming  Network of Spiritual Progressives. We invite everyone to share this version of the Al Cheyt (For Our Sins) prayer and add anything that has been left out.  You can also find this on line at www.tikkun.org.   IF YOU HAPPEN TO BE IN THE BAY AREA ON TUESDAY NIGHT SEPT 18 (KOL NIDRE) AND WEDNESDAY SEPT 19TH and have not signed up for these holiday services at which these prayers of atonement are read, please register for services with Rabbi Lerner at www.beyttikkun.org/hhd.

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How Donald Trump Desecrates America’s Founders

September 17th, 2018 by Eric Zuesse

George Washington’s Farewell Address — one of the most important documents of America’s Founders — warned against any and all permanent alliances; he said, on 19 September 1796:

The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.

(I urge the reader to see likewise that entire passage, because it is eloquent, and profoundly applicable to the present, and not only to the past.)

On 10 September 2018, at the Federalist Society (which pretends to be based upon America’s Founders, such as George Washington), the National Security Advisor to the President of the United States, John Bolton, stated that Israel is effectively part of US territory — though, if it is that, it’s the only part which is allowed to attack the United States and to be privileged to possess complete immunity from any prosecution by the United States Government for doing that.

Bolton, ironically, titled his speech “Protecting American Constitutionalism and Sovereignty from International Threats”. Either that title was a bald lie, or he’s ill-read in America’s founding documents, because he flatly contradicted those documents. He said (as excerpted in a Reuters news-report on Sunday, September 9th, quoting from Bolton’s advance-text):

“The United States will always stand with our friend and ally, Israel.”

“We will not cooperate with the ICC [International Criminal Court]. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. We will not join the ICC. We will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.”

“The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court.”

“We will consider taking steps in the U.N. Security Council to constrain the court’s sweeping powers, including to ensure that the ICC does not exercise jurisdiction over Americans and the nationals of our allies [such as Israel] that have not ratified the Rome Statute.”

The Reuters summary also noted that if the ICC nonetheless proceeds with its investigation of Israel,

“the Trump administration will consider banning [that Court’s] judges and prosecutors from entering the United States, put sanctions on any funds they have in the US financial system and prosecute them in American courts.”

So, the National Security Advisor to today’s US President disagrees strongly with George Washington, and — regarding Israel — he is determined that the US shall be (in Washington’s words) “a slave … a slave to its animosity or to its affection” for that country (Israel), and against what that country determines to be its enemies (such as Palestinians, Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah).

Image result for george washington

Washington’s Farewell Address had also said:

“Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence.”

“Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.”

“So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country.”

“It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy.”

Washington’s successor, the Second President, John Adams, in his Inaugural Address, on 4 March 1797, condemned “the pestilence of foreign influence, which is the angel of destruction to elective governments.”

The Third President, Thomas Jefferson, said at his First Inaugural on 4 March 1891:

“It is proper you should understand what I deem the essential principles of our Government, and consequently those which ought to shape its Administration. I will compress them within the narrowest compass they will bear, stating the general principle, but not all its limitations. Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.; …”

The CIA-edited Wikipedia devotes an article to denigrating what America’s Founders said regarding foreign relations, and it equates the Founders’ view with such movements in US history as isolationism, and especially with the America First organization that opposed America’s going to war against Hitler; in other words: it distorts US history beyond recognition as “history” at all. Another, similar, Wikipedia article tries to deceive readers to think that what the Founders said about this matter was intended to apply only to their own time and not to the country they were founding and throughout its future. Such Wikipedia “editing” is often involving Wikipedia employees, more like writing than editing, and even includes outright banning of certain ‘unpleasant’ facts. But, fortunately, America’s founding documents themselves haven’t yet been rewritten. And they are painfully clear, that this country isn’t at all what they had founded, but more like its opposite.

This, therefore, was a bipartisan matter by America’s Founders, and they made their intentions and hopes as clear as possible. The nation that America’s Founders established was conquered by internal subversion after World War II, an American counter-revolution by subterfuge that now controls both of this nation’s political Parties. Today’s America is profoundly inimical to the Founders’ hopes and dreams — the country not only of our Constitution, with the flaws it necessarily included in order to be accepted by all of the colonies (and which flaws, such as slavery, have produced numerous Amendments in order to repair), but more importantly, the country they were aiming for it to become, and which was embodied, for all eternity, in these and similar passages, in which the Founders stated with remarkable clarity and unanimity, their nation’s basic principles, which today’s US Government desecrates, instead of consecrates.

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Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Our Planet Is Angry

September 17th, 2018 by Sonali Kolhatkar

Storm of a lifetime” is how the National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C., described Hurricane Florence as it came lumbering across the Atlantic to hurl its ferocious winds and rain onto that coastal state. Pointing to the storm’s unusual path, one meteorologist said, “There’s virtually no precedent for a hurricane moving southwest for some time along the Carolina coast.” Florence is expected to slow down as it hits the coast, dumping a catastrophic amount of water over a small area instead of spreading rain far and wide. What that means for North Carolina’s numerous hog farms, coal ash pits and nuclear reactors is anyone’s guess, but there is a high likelihood of an environmental disaster unfolding.

We aren’t necessarily seeing more large storms. We’re seeing the usual storm activity jumping into overdrive, as The Washington Post’s Chris Mooney described how “[i]n little more than a day, Hurricane Florence exploded in strength, jumping from a Category 1 to a Category 4 behemoth with 140 mph winds.”

On the other side of the planet an even stronger storm, with wind speeds greater than Florence, Super Typhoon Mangkhut, is heading right toward the Philippines and China. Geographically, between Florence and Mangkhut lie the islands of Hawaii that got battered by Hurricane Olivia just weeks after being hit by Hurricane Lane. And only weeks ago, large swaths of the planet were struck by debilitating and record-breaking heat waves, fueling out-of-control wildfires up and down California’s coast. We have barely recovered from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and Hurricane Harvey in Houston last year, and before we know it, worse climate-related disasters will be upon us.

The earth is trying to tell us something: We are a species in deep, deep trouble. No matter how much our politicians dismiss the reality of global warming, minimize its impact or offer false solutions, the rapidly intensifying storms and their unpredictable paths are screaming out that our climate is changing. Heat waves are cooking the ground we walk on. No longer is a melting glacier in a far-off location the worst sign of our changing climate—the signs are happening here and now.

A warmer planet cares little for an invasive species called “Homo sapiens” that has colonized its surface and poisoned it. We may as well think of global warming as a planetary fever intended to cast us off as one would a pesky and persistent virus. It’s just physics, after all—something that ought to be grasped by anyone who understands why the inside of their enclosed car gets scorching hot after even a few minutes of sitting in the sun.

At a time when we should be heeding the earth’s angry response to our greenhouse gas emissions, Donald Trump’s administration is steadily unraveling our modest protections from climate change. On Monday, news emerged that the Environmental Protection Agency would make it easier for energy companies to dump methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. According to The New York Times, the proposal would be the “third major step this year to roll back federal efforts to fight climate change.” Just when we should be rapidly and dramatically scaling back all fossil fuel extraction and consumption, we are literally going backward.

Even in California, which has led the charge against Trump’s ill-fated decision to ignore climate change, and where Gov. Jerry Brown just signed an ambitious clean energy bill into law, we are not doing nearly enough. Gov. Brown and the California state Legislature have led the way on climate actions, but the federal bar is so low that California is able to preserve and even expand its oil and gas extraction industries and still claim to be leading the way on climate change.

The earth is doing its best to purge us, yet those in power are not listening. But the rest of us are. We’re listening and acting, as 30,000 people did in San Francisco last Saturday, joining hundreds of thousands of others all over the world as part of the Rise for Climate Jobs and Justice marches, and as activists are doing right now in confronting Gov. Brown at his Global Climate Summit. We are marching and rallying, screaming our throats hoarse, blocking traffic, getting arrested, chaining ourselves to equipment, and being attacked by dogs, pepper spray, tear gas and more.

Not only are we acting, we the people are the primary victims of a changing climate and the extreme weather events that are its hallmark. Trump, who boasted of the federal government’s response to Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico by calling it an “unsung success,” has effectively told us that he considers 3,000 deaths a measure of success. On Thursday he went even further, denying that there were that many deaths in Puerto Rico and claiming it was all a Democrat-led conspiracy to smear him. He has decided that 20,000 pallets of bottled water that were found rotting in the sun for a year instead of being distributed to needy survivors is what constitutes an adequate response by the government. What, then, are we to expect from the response to Hurricane Florence, and to all the hurricanes, wildfires and heat waves that will follow, thick and fast?

Eventually governments will run out of money, resources and first responders to tackle the extreme weather events on our roasting planet. Ordinary people will be left on their own as elites go laughing all the way to the bank, enriched by the wealth of our fossil fuel economy.

The French Revolution of the 1780s and ’90s is one of many revolutions in history that demonstrated how people who are pushed too far can and will use violence to reorganize society. Obviously, in our current age we cannot consider killing off those politicians and corporate executives who are dooming us to climate-related suffering and death as they satiate their greed. But we can foment an alternative to bloody revolutions by stripping elites of their power by any nonviolent means necessary, such as elections, political actions and all other forms of people power. The fate of our species hangs in the balance. We are many and they are few. That is all that we can do now in the face of our climate apocalypse.

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Sonali Kolhatkar is a columnist for Truthdig. She also is the founder, host and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV (Dish Network, DirecTV, Roku) and Pacifica stations KPFK, KPFA and affiliates. She is the founder and former host and producer of KPFK Pacifica’s popular morning drive-time program “Uprising.” She is also co-director of the Afghan Women’s Mission, a U.S.-based nonprofit solidarity organization that funds the social, political and humanitarian projects of RAWA.

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PLO-UNWRA Meeting: Dr. Ashrawi Meets with UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl

September 17th, 2018 by The Palestine Liberation Organization

PLO Executive Committee Member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi received Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) Pierre Krähenbühl who was accompanied by his Chief of Staff Hakam Shahwan at the PLO Headquarters in Ramallah.

Dr. Ashrawi thanked UNRWA for its dedicated and professional efforts in providing the 5.3 million Palestinian refugees in Occupied Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria with essential services, assistance and opportunities for work, growth and development while safeguarding their legal and political rights. She also lauded their overall contribution to the stability of the region as a whole.

The discussion focused on the enormous challenges and financial shortfalls facing UNRWA in carrying out its mandate to assist the Palestinian refugees as a result of the US administration’s politicization of humanitarian aid by defunding UNRWA.

Both parties expressed their appreciation to the more than 25 donors, including China, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, South Korea, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom, for their additional financial contributions to help bridge the funding gap caused by the US decision to terminate all funding of UNRWA:

“We are confident that the additional sponsorship of the organization will herald a new partnership, whereby UNRWA will emerge more vitalized and secure in its mandate and its support system.”

In that view, Dr. Ashrawi said,

“It is unfortunate that the US administration decided to use UNRWA as a political tool in its efforts to pressure and blackmail the Palestinian people and leadership, thereby causing harm to the most vulnerable segment of the Palestinian population.

In its overzealous drive to serve Israeli interests and priorities, the US is also targeting international organizations and the global rule of law in order to unilaterally reshape them. These attempts will only fail and will isolate the US government in the international arena and undermine its global influence and standing.

We, as the PLO, are committed to working with and supporting UNRWA to ensure that it continues to carry out its mandate according to UN General Assembly Resolution 302 (IV) and that it is guaranteed stability and continuity until the refugee question is resolved on the basis of justice and international law and conventions, including UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (III).”

Dr. Ashrawi also appealed to the entire international community to provide UNRWA and the Palestinian people with a safety net and financial stability.

In addition, both parties affirmed continued PLO-UNRWA coordination and cooperation and enhanced consultations on issues of mutual interest.

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Is something extremely unusual happening to our planet?  At this moment, Hurricane Florence is just one of seven named storms that are currently circling the globe.  That matches the all-time record, and it looks like that record will be broken very shortly as a couple more storms continue to develop.  Back in 2004, a Hollywood blockbuster entitled “The Day After Tomorrow” depicted a world in which weather patterns had gone mad.  One of the most impressive scenes showed nearly the entire planet covered by hurricane-type storms all at once.  Of course things are not nearly as bad as in that film, but during this hurricane season we have definitely seen a very unusual number of hurricanes and typhoons develop.  As our planet continues to change, could this become “the new normal”?

As I mentioned above there are currently seven named storms that are active, but an eighth is about to join them, and that would break the all-time record

The Hurricane season is causing devastation from the Pacific to the Atlantic as seven active storms are currently swirling across the globe – with high chances an eighth powerful storm will soon develop to break an all-time record.

And actually there is an additional storm that is also developing in the Pacific which could bring the grand total to nine.

Overall, there have been 9 named storms in the Atlantic and 15 names storms in the Pacific since the official start of the hurricane season.

That is not normal.

In fact, one veteran meteorologist has said that he has “NEVER seen so much activity in the tropics”…

Far from being the biggest threat facing the US coastline this hurricane season, Florence will be followed by several other storms that rapidly strengthening in the Atlantic. As one veteran meteorologist remarked, “in my 35 years forecasting the weather on TV, I have NEVER seen so much activity in the tropics all at the same time.”

Meanwhile, the biggest storm on the planet is actually in the Pacific Ocean.

Super Typhoon Mangku is a Category 5 hurricane, and it absolutely dwarfs Hurricane Florence

The devastating force of Hurricane Florence is nothing when compared to the category 5 hurricane sweeping over the Pacific Ocean, Super Typhoon Mangkhu.

With winds close to 180mph, the fierce hurricane is feared to land over a mountainous terrain in the northern Philippines on Friday night, before moving over the South China Sea and potentially impacting Hong Kong and Vietnam.

But let’s not minimize the seriousness of Hurricane Florence.  It is currently approximately the size of the state of Michigan, and even though it has been downgraded forecasters are still predicting that it will bring up to 40 inches of rain in some areas.

One meteorologist ran the numbers, and he determined that if the current forecasts are accurate the state of North Carolina could end up getting ten trillion gallons of rain

Weather.us meteorologist Ryan Maue crunched some numbers and tweeted that North Carolina’s 7-day rainfall forecast by the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center would be like getting “a total of over 10 trillion gallons” of rain from Florence. The math was based on the projected state average of 10.1 inches of rainfall for that time span.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Ten trillion gallons of rain.

Needless to say, all of that water is going to cause an immense amount of damage.

Over in Virginia, a top official is warning that “there could be a number of dams that will fail”

In neighboring Virginia, officials with the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation have identified some 100 dams they are concerned could be at risk, either because of “spotty inspection records” or because they are still being built.

“If we get 20 inches of rain in a relatively short period of time,” Russ Baxter, the department’s deputy director told the WSJ, “there could be a number of dams that will fail.”

As I write this article, some areas along the coast are already getting hammered.  Atlantic Beach has received more than 12 inches of rain, and other towns are already inundated with water.

It is going to be a long couple of days for those living along the Mid-Atlantic coast, and there were reports of panic among those making last-minute preparations

A rowdy crowd was shown in a Facebook video shared by an employee from the supermarket off Glenn School Road in Durham Tuesday pushing one another and shouting as they hurried around the store to gather their supplies.

Police officers were even spotted making their rounds around the Walmart to ensure the safety of shoppers.

One officer is seen restraining a young boy as another shopper drops several bottles of water.

This is yet another example that shows that you never wait until the last minute to get what you need.

In the end, the damage to property will be in the tens of billions of dollars, but only a handful of people will probably lose their lives.

Now that the storm has been downgraded, some are even booking rooms along the coast so that they can say that they rode the storm out.

For instance, 53-year-old Barry Freed says that he is sticking around so that he can cross this off his “bucket list”

For Barry Freed, 53, riding out a hurricane was a chance to cross something off his “bucket list.”

Armed with a few sodas, some M&Ms, Doritos and a copy of Moby Dick, the Greensboro resident booked an AirBnB at a condo here.

As skies darkened Thursday and winds whipped up at Waterway Lodge, just off the marina near Wrightsville Beach, Freed admitted he wasn’t really prepared.

“I kind of thought of this impulsively,” he said. “It’s kind of a stupid idea.”

Yes, it probably is a stupid idea, but I admire his courage.

This storm will come and go, and the recovery will take an extended period of time.

But the much bigger story is what is happening to our planet on a larger scale.  These storms are increasing in number and intensity, and that should definitely alarm all of us.

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Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

The Bluffer’s Guide to Bombing Syria

September 17th, 2018 by Peter Ford

The propaganda mills of the British and American governments – spokespersons, media, think tanks – are working overtime churning out ‘talking points’ to justify the upcoming large scale bombing of Syria on the pretext of use of prohibited weapons.

Here is a guide from a former insider to the top dozen of these lies.

1. There are more babies than jihadis in Idlib. As it happens this gem of moral blackmail is untrue. There are twice as many jihadis (about 100,000) as babies (0-1 year) (55,000). What is this factoid meant to say anyway? Don’t try to free an area of jihadis because you might harm a lot of children? The Western coalition scarcely heeded that consideration in razing Mosul and Raqqa in order to crush ISIS. They are still pulling babies out of the rubble in Raqqa.

2. The reports [of the imminent chemical weapons ‘attack’] must be true because Assad has done it before. False. Since 2013 when Assad gave up chemical weapons under supervision of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) the OPCW have not visited the sites of alleged attacks in jihadi-controlled areas but have accepted at face value ‘reports’ from pro-jihadi organisations like the White Helmets and the Syrian American Medical Society, along with ‘evidence’ from hostile intelligence agencies. In the case of the one site the OPCW did visit, Douma, their report said they found no evidence of sarin, no untoward traces in any of the blood samples taken from ‘alleged victims’ (their term), no bodies and only ambiguous evidence of use of chlorine.

3. The OPCW report on Douma was flawed because the Russians and Syrians caused delay. False. As documented in the OPCW report, delay was caused by UN bureaucracy and jihadi snipers. The inspectors do not say their findings were to any significant degree invalidated by the delay.

4. Assad uses chemical weapons because they frighten large numbers of people into fleeing. False. They don’t. This desperate argument is trotted out to counter the fact that Assad would have to be stupid to use chemical weapons knowing what the result would be and that he would derive minimal military benefit. To date, not one of the alleged chemical attacks has precipitated an exodus any greater than flight caused by the legendary ‘barrel bombs’. The inhabitants of Douma by their own testimonies given to Western journalists were even unaware there might have been an attack until they heard about it in the media.

5. The OPCW won’t be able to investigate because it won’t be safe. A feeble excuse to preempt calls for establishing facts before bombing. The Turks escort Western journalists into Idlib. They have hundreds of troops there and the jihadis kowtow to them because they control all logistics. The Turks could escort OPCW. And wouldn’t the jihadis be keener than anybody for the inspectors to visit if their claims were true?

6. The upcoming strikes are not aimed at regime change. False. The plan is to decapitate the Syrian state with attacks on the presidency. Failing that the aim is to make Idlib a quagmire for the Russians. Anything to deprive Asad and Putin of victory, regardless of whether it prolongs the war.

7. It’s all Russian disinformation. Yeah, like the arms inspectors before the Iraq war who said no WMD in Iraq. Reality: the Russians have got great intelligence on what Western powers with their jihadi clients are up to and are calling out the phoney moves.

8. There won’t be enough time for parliamentary debate. Pull the other one. Reality: the government are terrified of a rerun of 2013 when Labour and 30 brave Tory MPs voted against bombing, causing Cameron and then Obama to back off.

9. MPs can’t be told what is planned because it would jeopardise the safety of service personnel. How low can you stoop? Feigning concern for flyers when it’s really just about keeping the people in ignorance of how big the strikes are going to be.

10. There are going to be massacres, a bloodbath, or ‘genocide’. False. We heard all this hysteria before Aleppo, before Eastern Ghouta and before the campaign in the South. All vastly exaggerated. The Syrian Arab Army has not been responsible for a single massacre, while the jihadis have been responsible for many (source: quarterly reports of the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria).

11. People have nowhere to go. False. The Russians have opened safe corridors but the jihadis are not allowing people to leave. They can still leave for the northern border strip which Turkey controls, where there are camps, and many (including jihadi fighters) will be able to cross temporarily into Turkey.

12. We can’t tell you which armed groups we support because it would make them targets for Assad. Really? You think he doesn’t know? Isn’t it because you are terrified it will come out that we have been supporting some real head-choppers?

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Peter Ford is a retired British Diplomat who was Ambassador to Bahrain from 1999-2003 and Syria from 2003-2006.

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On Saturday morning, CNN reports that National Weather Service forecast flood waters on Cape Fear River in Wilmington N.C. to crest at 60 feet (sixty feet) early next week. Wilmington is near Southport, home of two reactor Brunswick nuclear plant on the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. The nuclear plant has a sea wall designed to withstand 22 feet of flooding according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. On Saturday morning the river gage on Cape Fear River in Wilmington had reached 16 feet with forecast of rising rapidly to an astounding record sixty feet of flood crest early next week.

Heavy downpours continue as Florence moves very slowly to the south west. The wide Cape Fear River is a major channel for flood water runoff to reach the ocean.

A fifty to sixty flood inundating the plant will mean thirty to forty foot deep flood coursing through the plant. This is almost certain to knock out onsite emergency generators at the nuclear plant to cool the reactors. What stands between catastrophic nuclear disaster are additional pumps and additional backup generation installed after Fukushima.

The ability of the reactors to tolerate prolonged deep flood waters is unknown. It was reported that waterproof steel doors had been installed on seven key locations in anticipation of the storm.

The Brunswick reactors are the same GE Mark I reactors that are at Fukushima. It is highly likely that offsite power to the nuclear plant will be disrupted by hurricane Florence. In this case, onsite emergency generators will be required to maintain cooling systems for the nuclear plants and spent fuel ponds filed with highly radioactive waste.

If water overtops the seawall, it can lead to electrical failure and potential for catastrophic events similar to the Fukishima reactor disaster that resulted in multiple reactor meltdowns and hydrogen explosions in overheating reactors.

“We face imminent danger of nuclear catastrophe, now that the forecast is for a 60 foot flood crest at 22 foot sea wall at the Brunswick plant. All possible assistance shall be provided immediately to help prevent nuclear disaster,” said energy expert Roy Morrison.

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Roy Morrison‘s latest book is Sustainability Sutra Select Books, NY 2017. He builds solar farms.

Turkey is pushing further reinforcements of troops, commando units and tanks into the northern Syrian city of Idlib and around it, for a specific objective: to disrupt the attack against the city by the Syrian forces and their allies supported by Russia. Ankara is indeed taking advantage of the Russian slowing down of its strategy to liberate the city from jihadists (including al-Qaeda) due to the US threat to bomb the Syrian Army and government forces under that excuse of “using chemical weapons”. This “chemical weapon” has become part of the battle of Idlib, used as a tool to wage war on Syria just as the war is coming to an end.

Russia considers the Turkish reinforcements as a breach of the Astana Turkish-Russian-Iranian deal, which limited the number of observation points and the military presence around the city and rural areas of Idlib. Moreover, Russia effectively considers Turkey to be unable to fulfil its commitment to totally end the presence of jihadists, especially including the group of al-Qaeda, stationed in the city and around it. In fact, the Turkish president Erdogan has asked for an extended delay to meet the Russian and the Iranian demands related to Idlib. This delay has been rejected by the government of Damascus whose leaders believe it is counterproductive to the interests of the country (to liberate the whole of Syria) and, further, would confirm the Russian president’s hesitancy which is apparently due to the US threat.

Decision makers in Damascus said “Turkey has offered Russia the protection of its military base in Hmaymeem by preventing any further drone attack against it. The Russian base has been subject to over 55 armed drone attacks, all shot down by the Russian defence system around the base which is on the Syrian coast. Actually, Russia itself is prepared to attack rural Latakia in order to create a safety zone for its base and remove the presence of the jihadists who have claimed responsibility for most of the attacks. Russia has rejected the Turkish offer, asking Ankara to abide by its agreement and eliminate the Jihadists from the city using Turkish influence to avoid the attack. Damascus believes Turkey would like to annexe Idlib and is, therefore, rejecting any deal with Turkey beyond the one already signed in Astana which consisted of a commitment to “finish off” all jihadists”.

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Furthermore, according to the sources, Turkey “promised to include Jabhat al-Nusra, aka Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, within one single army in Idlib to satisfy the Russian demands and show its control over the jihadists. Ankara’s troops are bringing in more military personnel – as Turkey presents it – to support all Turkish proxies in their battle against jihadists who refuse to surrender or merge with the other groups. According to recent information provided by Turkish intelligence to Russia and Iran, the Turkish army is prepared to attack any group refusing to submit to Turkey. Moreover, it seems that hundreds of jihadists have left Syria for another destination. Ankara is facilitating the exit- or else- of all jihadists: otherwise, these will have to fight and die in Idlib”.

Turkey is asking for more time, to delay the attack against Idlib for few more weeks. In the meantime, Syria’s allies are determined to control the rural area around Idlib, including rural Hama and Latakia. For this purpose, and for fear of a possible attack on Aleppo by jihadists as a way to divert the Syrian forces attack, the allies are sending large numbers of troops digging in for defensive purposes around Aleppo.

Syria’s allies and Damascus itself consider Russia to have slowed down the pace of its attack, thus allowing Turkey to raise concerns worldwide about the necessity of the attack on Idlib. Turkey encouraged the US to take its time to prepare its bank of objectives (targets) in Syria in the case it decides to bomb Syria. Also, it has pressed the international community, mainly the Europeans, to intervene to prevent a possible “flood of refugees and jihadists towards the continent of Europe in the case of an attack on Idlib”. Today, the two superpowers (Russia and the US) have conducted military manoeuvres in the Mediterranean facing the Syrian coast and in Syria (Tanf). So they are indeed “walking on the edge of an abyss” while flexing their muscles to each other.

According to my sources, Turkey “is asking for more time to solve the situation in Idlib without a fight. Also, it is proposing to solve the issue of tens of thousands of its armed Syrian proxy militants when the political reconciliation has matured. All these indicate strongly that Turkey is not willing to leave Syria”.

Moscow has substantial strategic interests engaged with Ankara (commercial exchange, armaments, plus facilitating and selling energy) as well as with Tehran (commerce and energy exchange- one consequence of the Turkish rejection of the US unilateral sanctions on Iran). President Erdogan is playing on this strategic relationship to stop the battle of Idlib. Nevertheless, both Russia and Iran themselves sustain a more profound strategic relationship with Syria, where the desire to put an end to the war and see all of Syria liberated is much stronger.

“There is no plan to attack the city of Idlib for now”, say the sources. The liberation of rural Hama, Latakia and Idlib are the main objectives. The almost two million Syrian civilians are not expected to exit to Turkey or Europe. They are invited to leave all areas which are under the control of the jihadists (mainly al-Qaeda and its partners or its armed supporters) and move into the city of Idlib under Turkish control.

What is clear so far is the certainty that President Assad is not ready to give up Idlib to President Erdogan. Assad is said to be ready to start the attack in a few weeks even alone, at the cost of dragging everybody behind him onto the battlefield.

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Overheard at the Fat Cats Club. Political Satire

September 17th, 2018 by Philip A Farruggio

Being a ‘fly on the wall’ is not such a bad thing… unless of course you get swatted. Listen to what this fly overheard at the Fat Cats Private Club the other day:

Fat Cat #1: Well I’ll tell you dear friend, things really seem to be running smoothly for us lately.

Fat Cat #2: Yes, it was brilliant of those of us who allowed Trump to get the Republican nod.

#1: Funny how when things go right they can accomplish so much. A) We got him to select our people to run his administration; B) Like a dedicated ‘Pied Piper’ Donald had millions of those blue collar and white collar white faces to follow him… and guess what, the majority of them still do!

#2 – (Laughing): They don’t care that they’re getting screwed in spades, so long as he pumps them up with his rhetoric of ‘ The Wall ‘ and ‘ Ragheads out’ and ‘ Drain the swamp’. Magnifico!

#1: And, the icing on the cake is this whole Russia and ‘ Putin is Hitler’ crap. It just makes Donald a most sympathetic character. We don’t even have to use our guys in the media to go to work on counteracting things. The Democrats are doing our work for us.

#2: Plus the fact that all this is opening it up for our agenda to really amp of the military spending even more…

#1 (interrupting him): Defense spending. Always use ‘ Defense spending’ and not the other term. That way we get the natives to wave the flag and salute our ‘ Brave warriors’ .

#2: Sorry. I just wonder how far can we go with this increased spending. I mean it’s already over 50% of their tax money, isn’t it?

#1: Are you kidding me!? We have the best of allies in this endeavor… The Democrats! They go all in for these requests, and all of that flag waving crap. Look at how they reacted to McCain’s death. They made him into an icon for goodness sakes! I mean, honestly, the guy couldn’t even fly a fighter jet properly, and remember how we had to bail him out during that whole Keating banking scandal?

#2: Yeah, you really have to give it to those Democrats. They always seem to come around to our big issues. Look at Obama. The guy massaged the natives right into the White House, and then what; He continued to give away the store to our Wall Street friends…

#1: And then the military spe… oh sorry, even I do it too… the defense spending actually increased under him.

#2: So much has been accomplished by our people. This Russia thing has allowed Donald to put through every agenda we push in his face. The suckers don’t even know what’s hitting them ( laughing ) .

#1: Absolutely! I mean, even those ( laughing ) so called ‘ Jobs Reports ‘ make them think that everyone can find a job. What’s wrong with millions working at Wal-Mart or some box store for $ 9.00 or $ 10.00 an hour? Get a second job if you need more!

#2: The companies my group owns just love the fact that we don’t have to worry about unions at all. We just need to get more states to push through ‘ Right to Work’ to really kneecap the whole union movement…

#1: And don’t forget that our people own most of the major unions anyhow. A little perk here and there and those union leaders bend and scrape for us.

#2: I mean, look at that whole ‘ Public Option ‘ crap that the Democrats tried to push through in ‘ 09. Obama did have us in a corner on that one if he went ahead full speed.

#1: Of course he didn’t, and neither did most of his party and most of the union leadership. We got them to acquiesce and keep our insurance companies and health care industry on top of that one. I mean, look at Medicare now. We have our private insurers running things anyway.

#2: What the suckers out there forget is that in ’08 McCain got a little over $ 7 million from our health care industry while Obama received over $ 21 million in campaign donations. You think he was really going to go ahead with his ‘ Hope and Change’ ?

#1: The same with the Wall Street bailout Part 2. We had Henry Paulson as our front man on Part 1. How many of the suckers out there realized that good ole Henry had just retired as CEO of Goldman Sachs at a compensation of $ 500 million? He did his best acting job to insure that Bush and Cheney got their bailout through pretty easily.

#2: I loved it when Nancy Pelosi stood with him in front of the media and gave her support for it. Of course, with Obama in office in ’09, we did need one of our guys, Rahm Emanuel, his new chief of staff, to make sure Part 2 breezed through.

#1: Just remember who Obama’s main economic advisor was in ’08 when he ran. None other than our guy Larry Summers, the guy who got Bill Clinton to push for the repeal of Glass-Steagall .

#2: That opened the door for our people to empty out the henhouse  ( laughing ) and really fortify the Subprime agenda. I tell you, I personally made mega millions on that one. Imagine, that law was on the books for over 66 years until Summers and company got it repealed in 1999.

#1: And it was the Democrats who did it! ( laughing )

#2: We have a lot to be thankful for my friend… from both of our friends on both sides of the aisle. Now, we just have to keep it going for a little longer. I mean, with the new Chinese empire on the horizon, you know this is not going to last too long.

#1: It’ll be time to bail out sooner than later…

#2: We need to find a nice safe country to relocate to, and count our gold.

#1: You have begun to convert into gold I hope?

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Philip A Farruggio is a son and grandson of Brooklyn, NYC longshoremen. He has been a free lance columnist since 2001, with over 400 of his work posted on sites like Global Research, Greanville Post, Off Guardian, Consortium News, Information Clearing House, Nation of Change, World News Trust, Op Ed News, Dissident Voice, Activist Post, Sleuth Journal, Truthout and many others. His blog can be read in full on World News Trust, whereupon he writes a great deal on the need to cut military spending drastically and send the savings back to save our cities. Philip has a internet interview show, ‘It’s the Empire… Stupid’ with producer Chuck Gregory, and can be reached at [email protected].

Trump’s Reckless Hostility Unites China and Russia

September 17th, 2018 by Eric Margolis

Good work Mr. President! You have now managed to lay the groundwork for a grand Chinese-Russian alliance. The objective of intelligent diplomacy is to divide one’s foes, not to unite them.

This epic blunder comes at a time when the US appears to be getting ready for overt military action in Syria against Russian and Syrian forces operating there. The excuse, as before, will be false-flag attacks with chlorine gas, a chemical widely used in the region for water purification. It appears that the fake attacks have already been filmed.

Meanwhile, some 303,000 Russian, Chinese and Mongolian soldiers are engaged in massive maneuvers in eastern Siberia and naval exercises in the Sea of Japan and Sea of Okhotsk. The latter, an isolated region of Arctic water, is the bastion of Russia’s Pacific Fleet of nuclear-armed missile submarines.

Interestingly, President Vladimir Putin, who has attended the war games with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, just offered to end the state of war between Russia and Japan that has continued since 1945. He also offered some sort of deal to resolve the very complex problem of the Russian-occupied Kuril Islands (Northern Territories to Japan) that has bedeviled Moscow–Tokyo relations since the war. The barren Kurils control the exits and entry to the Sea of Okhotsk where Russia’s nuclear missiles shelter.

In the current war games, Russia has deployed 30,000 military vehicles and 1,000 combat aircraft. China contributed 3,200 troops, 30 warplanes and naval units. Most of the equipment deployed in Vostok-18 was state of the art. Russia’s and China’s infantry, artillery and armor appeared impressive and combat ready – or as we in the US Army used to say, ‘STRAC.’

Why were these huge exercises being held in remotest eastern Siberia? First, so China could contribute forces close to its territory. Second, as a possible warning to the United States not to invade North Korea, which is just to the south and abuts on both China and Russia. Third, as a demonstration of the improved effectiveness of Russia and China’s military and as a warning to the US and its NATO satraps not to pick a fight with Russia over Ukraine, Syria or the Black Sea.

On a grander scale, Beijing and Moscow were signaling their new ‘entente cordiale’ designed to counter-balance the reckless military ambitions of the Trump administration, which has been rumbling about a wider war in Syria and intervention in, of all places, Venezuela. The feeling in Russia and China is that the Trump White House is drunk with power and unable to understand the consequences of its military actions, a fact underlined by recent alarming exposés about it.

Russia and China appear – at least for now – to have overcome their historic mutual suspicion and animosity. In the over-heated imagination of many Russians, China often appears to be the modern incarnation of the Mongol hordes of the past that held ancient Rus in feudal thrall. Russians still call China ‘Kitai’, or Cathay.

For the Chinese, Russia is the menacing power that stole large parts of eastern Siberia in the 19th century. Today, Russia frets that China’s 1.4 billion people will one day swamp the Russian Far East which has only 6.2 million inhabitants spread over a vast, largely empty region which is one of the world’s least inhabited.

In the 1960’s, after the Soviet Union and China became ideological antagonists, the two sides frequently clashed along their border rivers, Amur and Ussuri. They almost stumbled into a full-scale war on their 4,000 km border– at a time when the US had invaded Vietnam supposedly to ‘halt Chinese-Soviet aggression.’ The CIA was as ill-informed back then as it is today.

Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping attended the grand display, along with their senior military staffs. This week-long martial event, Russia’s largest war games in almost four decades, overshadowed the smaller military exercise being staged by NATO in Ukraine.

The message from eastern Siberia was clear: Washington’s reckless hostility and bellicosity is causing its foes to band together. A full third of the Russian Army just moved from Europe to the Far East for the war games. The Chinese dragon of which Napoleon warned is awakening.

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US War Strategists: Military Defeats and Political Success

September 17th, 2018 by Prof. James Petras

Introduction

In a previous article (“US: The Century of Lost Wars”) I recorded the repeated US military defeats over the past two decades. In this discussion I will describe the role of military strategists who bear responsibility for the US defeats, but also for Israeli political successes.

The key to this apparent contradiction is to uncover how and why the destruction of Israeli adversaries prolonged costly US military invasions.

The two outcomes are inter-related. The same US military strategists whose policies lead to failed US wars in the Middle East facilitated and augmented the power of Israel.

US war strategists’ operations reflect ‘dual loyalties’. On the one-hand they receive their elite education and high positions in the US, while their political loyalties to Tel Aviv express their Israel First strategic decisions.

Our hypothesis is that dual loyalist strategists have fabricated threats, identified adversaries and committed hundreds of thousands of US soldiers to losing wars based on calculations that effectively increase Israeli power and influence in the Middle East.

We will proceed by identifying the war strategists and their policies and conclude by proposing an alternative framework for re-thinking the relationship between dual citizens and military strategy.

The ‘Best and the Brightest’: The Blind Ally of Military Defeats

There is an apparent contradiction between the high academic achievements of elite military strategists and their abominable record in pursuing military conflicts.

Most, if not all, policy makers who led the US in prolonged wars against Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Syria were Israel-firsters, either Zionists or Israeli ‘fellow travelers’.

In each of these wars, the Israel firster war strategists, (1) identified the enemy, (2) exaggerated the threat to the US and (3) grossly inflated the military capacity of the targeted country. They started with Iraq and Afghanistan and then proceeded to the other nations, all opponents of Israel.

By ‘coincidence’ all countries supported the Palestinians’ rights of self-determination and opposed Israeli annexation and colonization of Arab lands.

Driven by their loyalty to Israel’s ‘expansionist goals’, the military strategists ignored the ‘real world’ political and economic costs to the US people and state. Professional and academic credentials, nepotism and tribal loyalties, each contributed to the Israel firsters advance to securing strategic decision-making positions and elite advisory posts in the Pentagon, State Department, Treasury and White House.

Their policies led to an unending trillion-dollar war in Afghanistan; losing wars in Libya, Iraq and Syria; and costly economic sanctions against Iran.

The main beneficiary was Israel which confronted less political and military opposition; zero cost in lives and money; and substantial gains in territory.

Why did the Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Chicago, Johns Hopkins’ cum laude graduates repeatedly produce the worst possible military outcomes?

This was in part because the US acted as an instrument of another power (Israel). Moreover, the Israel firsters never were obliged to reflect in self-criticism nor to admit their failures and rectify their disastrous strategies.

Their refusal to assume their responsibilities resulted from several causes. Their criteria for success were based on whether their policies advanced Israeli goals, not US interests.

Moreover, while their decisions were objectionable to US citizens, they were supported by the 52 Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organization, including the powerful Zionist lobby, AIPAC, which had been dictating Middle East policy to both political parties and the US Congress.

Ordinarily, military strategists, whose policies lead to repeated political disasters, are denounced, fired or even investigated for treasons. In our experience nothing of the sort happened.

The best and the brightest rotated between six-digit jobs in Washington to seven-digit positions on Wall Street, or secured positions in lucrative law firms in Washington and New York (many with offices in Israel) or were appointed to prestigious academic posts in Ivy League universities – and virtually all serve on corporate boards.

What Should be Done?

There are countervailing measures that can lessen the impact of the strategic policies of the Israel Firsters. Academic Israel firsters should be encouraged to remain in academia where their harm would be limited to misleading their students, rather than serve Israel’s interest in the US State apparatus.

If they remain in the Ivory Tower they will inflict less destructive policies on American citizens and the state – and possibly be subjected to some form of peer review and honest debate.

Secondly, since the vast-majority of Israel firsters are more likely to be arm chair war mongers, who have not risked their lives in any of the US wars that they promote, obligatory recruitment into combat zones might dampen their ardor for wars.

Thirdly, as matters stand, since many Israel firsters have chosen to serve in the so-called Israeli Defense (sic) Force (IDF) they should reimburse US taxpayers for their free ride to education, health and welfare.

Fourthly, since most Israel firsters, who volunteer to join the IDF, favor shooting unarmed Palestinian protesters, medics, journalists and kite-flying children, they should be drafted into the US Army to serve in Afghanistan and face the battle-hardened, committed Taliban fighters surrounding Kabul. This experience might knock a bit of realism in their dreams of converting the Middle East into tribal fiefdoms controlled by a ‘Greater Israel’.

Many national loyalties are forged by shared lives with families and friends of US soldiers who endure endless wars. Israel firsters dispatched to the war front would receive existential experiences, by mingling with working class and rural American soldiers that the Harvard, Princeton and Yale military strategists who design these wars for Israel have failed to understand.

Obligatory courses on the genocide and ethnic cleansing of millions of Palestinian, Iraqi, Syrian, and Libyan people would enrich Israel firsters understanding of the diversity of “holocausts’ in contemporary ethno-religious settings.

Face to face encounters in life threatening combat situations, where superior arms do not prevail, would deflate the hubris, arrogance and superiority complexes which fuel the tribal loyalties of Israel firsters.

In conclusion, we offer modest suggestions for educated and cultured scientists, doctors, artists and entrepreneurs:

1. Convert your skills to training a new generation who will defend democratic values and social solidarity and eschew wars, persecution and phony calumny of anti-Semitism against critics of an ethnically exclusionary state.

2. Forsake exclusive control of the mass media which glorifies Israeli war crimes and denigrates critics as ‘anti-Semites’ for speaking truth to power.

Let’s join together to liberate America from military entanglements that privilege multi-billion-dollar giveaways to Israel while thirty million US workers lack health coverage, forty percent of upstate New York children live in poverty.

Yes, there is an honorable place for everyone who joins in solidarity with the victims of Israeli First war strategists.

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Award winning author Prof. James Petras is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

This article was first posted on Global Research in September 2017.

For ten years during the Vietnam War, the United States used a toxic concoction of two herbicides, labeled ‘Agent Orange,’ to wipe out large areas of Vietnam which were covered by thick jungle. The aim was to enable easier and more effective bombing of enemy bases. The issue was, Agent Orange wasn’t just an herbicide — it was also a deadly weapon, as it contains large amounts of dioxin.

Agent Orange was discovered in the year 1943 by American botanist Arthur Galston. Between the years of 1962 and 1971, the US army “showered” the deadly chemical over Southern Vietnam as part of the military operation “Ranch Hand”, or “Trail Dust.” In total, more than 20 million gallons of Agent Orange was used. Sadly, Agent Orange did more than contribute to the deforestation of vast areas of land. It also contaminated air, water, and food sources.

History Rundown reports that in high concentrations, dioxin can trigger severe inflammation of the skin, lungs and mucous tissues. Sometimes, the toxicity can result in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pulmonary edema, and even death. The highly effective carcinogen is also known to affect the eyes, liver, and kidneys, and to cause laryngeal and lung cancer.

As a result of using Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, more than 400,000 people were killed or maimed, and at least 500,000 children were born with mild to severe birth defects. Additionally, 5 million acres of forests and millions more of farmland were destroyed. Agent Orange is said to have killed 10 times more people than all chemical weapons combined.

Because the United States didn’t “technically” violate international laws, as it signed defense treaties with Southern Vietnam’s government and its actions (for the most part) were in line with the defense treaties, there was no reprimand for using Agent Orange as a chemical weapon during the war. That doesn’t mean hundreds of thousands didn’t suffer — or continue to today.

Today, many Agent Orange victims live in Peace Villages, communities where workers care for them and try to give them a normal life. However, “normal” will never truly be possible for most, as mutations caused by Agent Orange still affect the people and the children of Vietnam. As AllThatIsInteresting reports, those who can live in Peace Village are luckier than some of their siblings. Reportedly, some victims of the chemical agent are too deformed to even survive childbirth.

“There is a room at the hospital which contains the preserved bodies of about 150 hideously deformed babies, born dead to their mothers,” one charity worker said“Some have two heads; some have unbelievably deformed bodies and twisted limbs. They are kept as a record of the terrible consequences of chemical weaponry.”

Veterans who served in the Vietnam war, as well, returned to US soil reporting unusually high rates of lymphoma, leukemia, and cancer. The rates were highest among those who worked with Agent Orange directly.

Following are haunting images from the war crime the US got away with:

1) Three planes fly over Vietnam releasing chemicals.

Vietnam. Circa 1961-1971. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

 

2) An aerial photograph showing the effects of Agent Orange. The land on the left hasn’t been sprayed while the land on the right has.

Vietnam. Circa 1961-1971. Credit: Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr. Collection: Agent Orange Subject Files/The Vietnam Center and Archive/Texas Tech University

3) Not all of the chemicals were sprayed from above. These soldiers are spraying crops from atop a vehicle, getting up close and personal with the dangerous chemicals.

Vietnam. Circa 1961-1971. Credit: Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr. Collection: Agent Orange Subject Files/The Vietnam Center and Archive/Texas Tech University

4) A ten-year-old girl born without arms writes in her schoolbook.

Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam. December 2004. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

5) Soldiers down below help spray Agent Orange on the jungle, getting a dangerous dose of the chemicals all over their skins in the process.

Vietnam. Circa 1961-1971. Credit: Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr. Collection: Agent Orange Subject Files/The Vietnam Center and Archive/Texas Tech University

6) 55-year-old Kan Lay holds her 14-year-old son, born with severe physical disabilities because of Agent Orange.

A Lưới, Vietnam. August 6, 2013. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

 

 

7) A soldier, after spraying the land with Agent Orange, tries to wash himself clean in some of the very waters that he had helped pollute.

Vietnam. Circa 1961-1971. Credit: Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr. Collection: Agent Orange Subject Files/The Vietnam Center and Archive/Texas Tech University

8) A helicopter sprays Agent Orange.

Vietnam. Circa 1961-1971. Credit: Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr. Collection: Agent Orange Subject Files/The Vietnam Center and Archive/Texas Tech University

9) Lt. Kathleen Glover comforts an orphaned Vietnamese child.

After the war, Lt. Glover would come home and find out that she had contracted Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma from her exposure to Agent Orange. Vietnam. Circa 1961-1971. Credit: RADM Frances Shea Buckley Collection/The Vietnam Center and Archive/Texas Tech University

10) A man begs for money outside of a cathedral. He was born with a deformed arm because of Agent Orange, and it makes it nearly impossible for him to find work.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. June 1, 2009. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

11) A group of American planes fly over top of the jungles and release chemicals meant to kill the trees underneath

Vietnam. Circa 1961-1971. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

13) A helicopter sprays Agent Orange on Vietnamese farmland.

Mekong River, Vietnam. July 26, 1969. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

14) A massive stack of 55-gallon drums full of Agent Orange waits to be poured over the people of Vietnam.

Location unspecified. Circa 1961-1971. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

15) Military personnel demonstrate how to handle an Agent Orange leak, apparently growing increasingly aware of how dangerous the chemical they’d been using really is.

Okinawa, Japan. May 11, 1971. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

16) Professor Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong poses for a photo with the handicapped children under her care. Every one of them was born with a defect caused by Agent Orange.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. December 2004. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

17) The third-generation child of an Agent Orange victim. Despite the generations between him and the Vietnam War, this boy still feels the effects and lives in a special village for Agent Orange victims.

Hanoi, Vietnam. November 10, 2007. Credit: A. Strakey/Flickr

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Needled Strawberries in Australia: Food Terrorism Down Under

September 17th, 2018 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

There is something peculiar doing the rounds in Australian food circles.  The land down under, considered something of a nirvana of fruit and vegetable production despite horrendous droughts and calamitous cyclones, is facing a new challenge: human agency, namely in the form of despoliation of strawberries. 

The results have knocked Australia’s highly concentrated supermarket chains, with both Coles and Aldi withdrawing all their fruit with a nervousness that has not been seen in years.  A spate of incidents involving “contamination”, or pins stuck in the fruit, have manifested across a range of outlets.  Strawberry brands including Donnybrook Berries, Love Berry, Delightful Strawberries, Oasis brands, Berry Obsession, Berry Licious and Mal’s Black Label have made it onto the list of needled suppliers.  There have been possible copycat initiates doing the rounds. 

“This,” exclaimed Strawberries Australia Inc. Queensland spokesman Ray Daniels, “is food terrorism that is bringing an industry to its knees.”

The game of food contamination, infection or, as Daniels deems it, food terrorism, is the sort of thing that multiplies in fear and emotion.  It targets the industry itself (the strawberry market is already frail before the effects of pest and blight), and ensures maximum publicity for the perpetrator.  Then there is the constant fear of a potential victim, the all stifling terror of legal action that might find a target in the form of a provider.  Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has already boosted such feelings, ordering the Food Standards Australia New Zealand to investigate the matter.  “This is a vicious crime, it’s designed to injure and possible worse, members of the population at large.”

Out of 800,000 punnets of strawberries, notes Daniels, seven needles were found.  “You’ve got more chance of winning lotto than being affected.”  Take your chance, and, as with all food production, hope for the best as you would hope for the arrival of a green goddess. 

Others such as Anthony Kachenko of Hort Innovation Australia have also moved into a mode of reassurance, a salutary reminder that Australia remains in the stratosphere of food excellence despite such adventurous despoilers.  Sabotage it might be, but it was surely isolated, a nonsense that could be dealt with surgical accuracy.

“Australia prides itself on safe, healthy, nutritious produce and we have the utmost confidence in the produce that we grow both for the domestic and the export markets.”

Such attitudes mask the fundamental bet that has characterised human existence since these unfortunate bipeds decided to experiment with the cooked and uncooked.  History shows that wells have been poisoned and fields salted.  The divorce from hunter gatherer to industrialist consumer oblivious to the origins of food made that matter even more poignant, and, in some cases, tragic.  The consumer is at the mercy of the production line, and everything else that finds its way into it. 

The food science fraternity are being drawn out to explain the meddling, pitching for greater funding, and another spike in industry funds. 

“The things we’re usually concerned about,” suggests Kim Phan-Thien of the University of Sydney, “are the accidental contaminants; spray drift or microbial contamination [which is] a natural risk in the production system.” 

What was needed, claimed the good food science pundit, was an examination, not merely of “unintentional adulteration and contaminants but the intentional adulteration for economic gain or a malicious reason for a form of terrorism.”

Take a punt (or in this case, a punnet), and hope that source, process and final destination are somehow safe.  The cautionary note here is to simply cut the suspect fruit to ensure no errant needles or pins have found their way into them.  (This presumes the needle suspect was probably hygienic.)   

But the strawberry nightmare highlights the insecurity within the food industry, the permanent vulnerability that afflicts a multi-process set of transactions, recipients and consumers.  Purchasing anything off the stands, and in any aisle of a supermarket is never a guarantee of safety, a leap of faith based upon a coma inflicted by industrial complacence.  We are left at the mercy of speculative fancy: the item we take home is what it supposedly is, irrespective of labelling, accurate or otherwise.

The scare, as it is now being termed, has had the sort of impact any fearful threat to health and safety does: an increased focus on security, a boost in food surveillance and the gurus versed in the business of providing machinery.  Strawberry Growers Association of Western Australia President Neil Handasyde revealed that growers were being pressed for increased scanning in the form of metal detectors. 

“As an industry we are sure that [the needles] are not coming from the farm, but we’re about trying to get confidence into customers that when they buy a punnet of strawberries, that there isn’t going to be anything other than strawberries in there and they’re safe to eat.” 

Possibly guilty parties have been distancing themselves with feverish necessity.  This, as much as anything else, reeks of the legal advice necessary to avoid paying for any injury that might result.  Mal’s Black Label strawberries, one of the growing number of needle recipients, has taken the line that the farm is above suspicion, with the suspects to be found elsewhere.  Strawberry grower Tony Holl suggested that some figure was floating around, needle and all, intent on fulfilling the wishes of “a real vendetta”.

A reward of $100,000 has been offered by the Queensland government for capturing the villain in question, if, indeed, there is a conscious, all-rounded creature doing the rounds.  He, she, or it, has now assumed various titles from the Queensland authorities.  The “strawberry spiker” or “strawberry saboteur” seem less like life-threatening agents than lifestyle names intent on an encyclopaedic entry.  But biosecurity, and matters of food health, are matters that throb and pulsate in Australia.  Authorities are promising to find the culprit.  The culprit may have other designs.

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Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Email: [email protected]

Each night, the streets of the Christian town of Mhardeh teem with life.

Young people in trendy attire drink beer and smoke Shisha pipes, shyly eyeing up attractive passersby and posing for group selfies, while off-duty soldiers with their girlfriends sitting side-saddle whizz through the town on motorbikes.

“Look at this, even during the hardest part of the war, people are out. It’s a release, a way to forget what we are suffering because, when the mortars rain down on us, we have to hide in our basements,” says science undergraduate Samer Altouma.

One of four churches in Mhardeh (MEE/Katharine Cooper)

As people melt back to their homes and the music and chatter fades, explosions reverberate through the ground, as waiters pack away chairs and tables.

Mhardeh city centre is just ten kilometres from Idlib province, the last rebel-held stronghold in Syria, near where a snaking frontline is manned by volunteer Christian units from the Mhardeh Defence Force, the Syrian Army and allied forces.

Last week, 11 civilians were killed, including six children when three missiles fell on the town. One man lost his mother, wife and three children when his house was hit. A further 20 people were injured in the attack.

The looming Idlib conflict – set to be the last major battle of Syria’s ruinous civil conflict – is nothing new for the city. The Christian Mhardeh Defence Forces, formed in 2011 as a local branch of Syria’s voluntary pro-government National Defence Forces, have been pitted against the country’s rebel factions for seven years, after the city first came under attack.

“We are peaceful Christians who didn’t want to enter the war so we tried to reach a peaceful solution and our priests went out and talked to the terrorists [armed rebels, mostly from outlying Sunni villages], trying to diffuse the situation,” says Mhardeh Defence Force commander Simon al-Wakil.

“We told them, if you want to break down the Syrian government, go to Damascus not here but when we saw how they behaved towards us, using only an iron fist, we realised this was a fake revolution.”

At this point, seven years into the civil war, pro-government Syrians, along with the Syrian government and ally Russia, characterise all rebel groups in Idlib as terrorists. The Syrian government has presented itself as a defender of the country’s minority faiths and has extensive in-country support from Christians and Alawites.

As dialogue efforts broke down, rebels besieged the city, shelling residential areas, mining roads and kidnapping passing civilians or those trying to flee, he said. With no Syrian Army units in the area, the village formed the Mhardeh Defence Force.

Most men over 18 able to carry a gun volunteered and, under the leadership of Commander Wakil – the former head of a local construction company – started a defence of their city which has lasted seven years.

The Mhardeh Defence Force currently has around 200 fighters on the Idlib front lines, alongside the Syrian Army and allied forces, but thousands more Mhardeh volunteers can be swiftly mobilised, according to Wakil, who says his men are on standby, waiting for government orders to advance.

Rebuilding Mhardeh

“Mortar, mortar, mortar,” Wakil repeats like a mantra as he drives through the city, pointing out extensive newly tarmacked sections of Mhardeh’s roads, damaged by seven years of bombardment.

Rebel attacks have killed 97 civilians and injured a further 156 over the last seven years but most of Mhardeh’s almost exclusively Christian population have remained in Syria.

This was encouraged by priests and senior members of the community who feared that, if locals fled, they might never be able to return, to an area where Christian communities have lived for nearly 2,000 years.

To ensure the city remained habitable, the local council facilitated the prompt rebuilding of homes damaged or destroyed in fighting, with repairs funded by the community and wealthy locals when families did not have the money themselves.

“We are such a tight-knit community that if you hit one of us, you hit us all,” explains Altouma.

Although the situation inside Mhardeh has stabilised, missiles fired from rebel positions are still able to hit the city, as they did last week, and its citizens live in fear of further attacks.

Honouring some of Mhardeh residents killed during in the war (MEE/Katharine Cooper)

While morale in Mhardeh remains strong, Syria’s civil war and international sanctions have sent prices of most goods rocketing, and life remains tough. Every week, the Red Crescent in charge of distributing UN-supplied aid, is inundated by residents collecting boxes of essential foodstuffs.

“These aid supplies were very, very important to local people during times of siege by terrorists, when food was used like a weapon,” explains deputy head of the local Syrian Red Crescent, Wael al-Khouri.

“Now people can manage to live without this aid but it is still very helpful and all the items here are long-life so can be stored for future use.”

With the city no longer under siege and the end of the Syrian conflict finally in sight, Khouri says the Red Crescent is now starting to change its focus, upping its support to local widows, the war-wounded and, particularly, the many children who have been affected by the war.

Life near the Idlib front lines

The bells of Mhardeh’s four churches and one monastery ring out every day, with special ‘warning’ tolls when shelling is underway or anticipated, and on the surface life continues as normal, with bustling streets and groups of locals heading to the fertile hills to gather seasonal figs.

But daily life is overshadowed by the ongoing war. In a downtown military control room, Commander Wakil monitors the front-lines, sitting in front of an array of high-power weapons clipped to the wall and a shelf of bullets carefully arranged in order of size.

Simon al-Wakil, Mhradeh Defence Force commander (MEE/Tom Westcott)

Beside a large poster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stretched across the length of a wall stands a glass case containing a decorated Syrian Army boot on top of the flags of the Confederate States of America and Israel.

Around him, sipping strong coffee, sit members of the Mhardeh Defence Forces – teachers, doctors, engineers and poets – who, he says, took up arms to defend their Christian town, culture and history. The narrative that rebels threatened Syrian minorities has been used extensively by the government but the residents of Mhardeh say for them, this is a reality. They believe their town was targeted by rebels from outlying Sunni villages specifically for being Christian and say they were expected to flee in terror to pre-prepared refugee camps in Turkey.

Christians light candles in one of Mhardeh’s four churches (MEE/Katharine Cooper)

Wakil, injured himself nine times, gestures around the room, saying every man present has been injured in fighting and most have gone straight back to the front lines after treatment.

“We are pro-Syria,” he says firmly. “Before the war, Syria was a great place, on a road of development, but then 86 countries and the ‘Zionist entity’ [the term some Syrians apply to Israel, which they do not recognise as a country] supported the destruction of this country. They destroyed Syria but we, and our children, will rebuild it.”

The Syrian government has presented itself as a defender of the country’s minority faiths and appears to have quite extensive in-country support from Syrians of all faiths, including Christians and Alawites.

Religious and patriotic tattoos on a Mhardeh Defence Force fighter (MEE/Katharine Cooper)

Teacher Anwar Pijou says he believes this was part of an international plan to strip Syria of its state and institutions and reduce it to a similar level of chaos endured by neighbouring Iraq after 2003, saying:

“True Syrian patriots are pro-state, pro-constitution and pro-law because, if there’s no government and no state, there would be no law and just chaos.”

On the shell-strewn front-lines, overlooking countryside and abandoned villages stretching towards Idlib province, members of the Mhardeh Defence Force manning tank and mortar positions monitor the horizon for activity. Idlib city is 70 kilometres from here, and the start of Idlib province lies just seven kilometres distant.

Mhardeh Defence Force commander Simon al-Wakil in front of a poster near the Idlib frontline bearing the faces of himself, Assad and Putin (MEE/Katharine Cooper)

Steam pours from the chimneys of a nearby electrical sub-station, one of the most fiercely-contested local facilities, which changed hands multiple times, repeatedly plunging Mhardeh into darkness for weeks on end. During a 14-day occupation, rebels graffitied the premises with mottos including: ‘We don’t need the electricity of Assad, the light of Islam is enough for us.’

Wakil’s military leadership of Mhardeh’s seven-year defence has made him something of a local hero. His face, alongside that of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin, features on posters near the Idlib frontline. His portrait also hangs in an art exhibition showing the work of local art students, painted by 19 year-old Sarah Nimow who described Wakil as “inspirational”.

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Featured image: On a warm summer evening, the town centre is full of young people (MEE/Katharine Cooper)

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Once again, the United States is blackmailing countries that would send Americans to face justice in the International Criminal Court. Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton is leading the charge to shield US and Israeli war criminals from legal accountability.

On September 10, Bolton told the right-wing Federalist Society that the United States would punish the ICC if it mounts a full investigation of Americans for war crimes committed in Afghanistan or of Israelis for human rights violations committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

ICC Prosecutor Has “Reason to Believe” US Military Committed Torture

Last fall, Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor of the ICC, recommended to the court’s Pre-Trial Chamber that it open a full investigation into the possible commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by parties to the war in Afghanistan, including US persons.

In 2016, Bensouda’s preliminary examination found reason to believe, “at a minimum,” that members of the US military “subjected at least 61 detained persons to torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity,” and CIA personnel “subjected at least 27 detained persons to torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity and/or rape.”

Torture and inhuman treatment constitute war crimes under the Rome Statute.

Bensouda stated in her 2016 report:

The information available suggests that victims were deliberately subjected to physical and psychological violence, and that crimes were allegedly committed with particular cruelty and in a manner that debased the basic human dignity of the victims. The infliction of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” applied cumulatively and in combination with each other over a prolonged period of time, would have caused serious physical and psychological injury to the victims. Some victims reportedly exhibited psychological and behavioural issues, including hallucinations, paranoia, insomnia, and attempts at self-harm and self-mutilation.

Moreover, Bensouda concluded these actions were not isolated instances of misbehavior, noting:

The gravity of the alleged crimes is increased by the fact that they were reportedly committed pursuant to plans or policies approved at senior levels of the US government, following careful and extensive deliberations.

After Bensouda determined an official investigation was warranted, Bolton wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “The ICC constitutes a direct assault on the concept of national sovereignty, especially that of constitutional, representative governments like the United States.”

The countries of the world, including the United States, spent 50 years developing an international court to try genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression. However, in 1998, when the world’s countries voted on the Rome Statute to establish the court, the United States was one of only seven countries that voted against it. There are 123 member states that are parties to the Rome Statute.

The court entered into force in July 2002. Judges on the court are respected for their impartiality and they represent regional diversity.

Bolton, Trump Threaten Sanctions Against ICC if It Investigates Americans

The United States isn’t a party to the Rome Statute, but Afghanistan is. Therefore, the court could take jurisdiction over individuals who allegedly committed crimes in Afghanistan.

In one of his final acts as president, Bill Clinton signed the Rome Statute but recommended to incoming President George W. Bush that he not submit the treaty to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification. When a country signs a treaty, it indicates an intent to ratify — and become party to — the treaty.

Bush didn’t just refuse to send the Rome Statute to the Senate. Through then-Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs John Bolton, the Bush administration withdrew the US’s signature from the statute in May 2002. Bolton declared the unprecedented action “the happiest moment of my government service.”

Congress then enacted the American Service-Members’ Protection Act to prevent prosecution of US armed forces “to the maximum extent possible.” One clause, dubbed the “Hague Invasion Act,” authorized the use of force to extract any US or allied force detained by the ICC.

At Bolton’s behest, the Bush administration then extracted bilateral immunity agreements from 100 countries, in which the US government threatened to withhold foreign aid if they turned over US persons to the ICC.

Bolton told the Federalist Society that his mission to “prevent other countries from delivering US personnel to the ICC” was “one of my proudest achievements.”

Now the United States is escalating its threats against the ICC.

On September 10, the same day Bolton vilified the ICC before the Federalist Society, Donald Trump issued a statement saying that if the ICC formally opens an investigation, his administration would consider negotiating “even more binding, bilateral agreements to prohibit nations from surrendering United States persons to the ICC.” He threatened to ban “ICC judges and prosecutors from entering the United States, sanction their funds in the United States financial system, and, prosecute them in the United States criminal system,” as well as “taking steps in the United Nations Security Council to constrain the Court’s sweeping powers.”

In his address to the Federalist Society, Bolton called the ICC “illegitimate,” declaring,

“We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. We will not join the ICC. We will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.”

The ICC Is a Court of Last Resort

Under the principle of “complementarity,” the ICC takes jurisdiction over a case only if the suspect’s home country has been unable or unwilling to effectively prosecute it.

If the United States had prosecuted individuals in the Bush administration for the commission of war crimes in Afghanistan, the ICC would not be examining the case. But shortly after taking office, Barack Obama said,

“[G]enerally speaking, I’m more interested in looking forward than I am in looking backwards.”

Indeed, Bensouda noted, the Obama administration’s review was “limited to investigating whether any unauthorized interrogation techniques were used by CIA interrogators, and if so, whether such conduct could constitute violations of any applicable statutes.” She noted Obama Attorney General Eric Holder’s proclamation that his Justice Department “will not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel [OLC] regarding the interrogation of detainees.”

But in the infamous “Torture Memos” that John Yoo wrote while working in Bush’s OLC, he defined torture much more narrowly than the law allows. And notwithstanding the Torture Convention’s unequivocal prohibition of torture, Yoo erroneously claimed that self-defense and national security are defenses that can be used to justify torture.

Holder limited his investigation to two of the most heinous instances of torture: the deaths of Gul Rahman and Manadel al-Jamadi. Ultimately, however, Holder’s Justice Department “determined that an expanded criminal investigation of the remaining matters is not warranted.”

Rahman froze to death in 2002 after he was stripped and shackled to a cold cement floor in the secret Afghan prison called the Salt Pit. Al-Jamadi died after being suspended from the ceiling by his wrists bound behind his back. Military police officer Tony Diaz, who witnessed al-Jamadi’s torture, said that blood gushed from al-Jamadi’s mouth like “a faucet had turned on” when he was lowered to the ground. A military autopsy determined al-Jamadi’s death was a homicide.

Nonetheless, Holder refused to prosecute those responsible for the torture and deaths of those two men.

In 2014, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a 499-page executive summary of its 6,700-page classified torture report. It says that several detainees were waterboarded — one 183 times, another 83 times. It is well-established that waterboarding constitutes torture, which is a war crime.

The executive summary states that the CIA utilized “rectal feeding,” in which a mixture of pureed hummus, pasta and sauce, nuts and raisins was forced into the rectum of one detainee. “Rectal rehydration” was used to establish the interrogator’s “total control over the detainee.”

Other examples of “enhanced interrogation techniques” documented in the summary include slamming into walls, hanging from the ceiling, being kept in total darkness, being deprived of sleep — sometimes with forced standing — for up to seven-and-a-half days, being forced to stand on broken limbs for hours, being threatened with mock execution, being confined in a coffin-like box for 11 days, as well as being bathed in ice water and dressed in diapers. One detainee “literally looked like a dog that had been kenneled,” according to the report.

But those who perpetrated this torture and cruel treatment have not been held to account in a court of law. For that reason, Bensouda is recommending a full investigation by the ICC.

US Tries to Shield Israeli Leaders From War Crimes Liability

Besides endeavoring to protect Americans from accountability for war crimes, the Trump administration is also explicitly attempting to shield Israelis from war crimes liability.

The ICC prosecutor is conducting a preliminary investigation of war crimes committed in Gaza in 2014. She should expand it to include crimes committed by Israel during the 2018 Great March of Return, when it killed unarmed protesters week after week.

In his speech to the Federalist Society, Bolton criticized the possibility of an ICC investigation into alleged international crimes committed by Israelis in Gaza and the West Bank. He said,

“We will not allow the ICC, or any other organization, to constrain Israel’s right to self-defense.”

As an occupying force, Israel does not have a right to self-defense against the occupied Palestinians. Moreover, self-defense is not a defense against the commission of torture, which is a war crime.

Bolton referred to Israel’s construction of illegal settlements as “housing projects” and stated that the US’s recent decision to close the Palestinian Liberation Office in Washington, DC, was partly due to the Palestine Liberation Organization’s pursuit of a criminal investigation at the ICC. Bolton stated,

“If the court comes after us, Israel or other US allies, we will not sit quietly,” and he threatened retaliation.

“America’s Exceptionalism” Animates Bolton’s Assault on ICC

Bolton revealed that American exceptionalism motivated him to vilify the ICC. He wrote, “Proponents of global governance … know that America’s exceptionalism and commitment to its Constitution were among their biggest obstacles.”

Bensouda responded to Bolton’s Federalist Society speech, stating the ICC is “an independent and impartial judicial institution” based on the principle of complementarity. She stated, “The ICC, as a court of law, will continue to do its work undeterred, in accordance with those principles and the overarching idea of the rule of law.”

No one, not even Americans and Israelis, enjoy impunity for the commission of war crimes. In spite of the Bolton-Trump assault on the ICC, its prosecutor promises to hold firm and do her job. Her efforts must be supported.

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Copyright Truthout. Reprinted with permission.

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and an advisory board member of Veterans for Peace. The editor and contributor to The United States and Torture: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues, Cohn testified before Congress about the Bush interrogation policy.

Trump Can Kill Oslo, But Not Palestinian National Aspirations

September 17th, 2018 by James J. Zogby

In recent weeks, the Trump administration has taken a series of drastic punitive actions against the Palestinian people. Some analysts have accepted the official White House explanation that many of the actions were done either out of displeasure with actions taken by the Palestinian leadership or as pressure forcing them “to take steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.” I disagree. When added together, the Trump administration moves are so all-encompassing and far-reaching that I suspect a more ominous intent. 

Here’s what the administration has done:

It cut US assistance to UNWRA, congressionally authorized humanitarian, development projects and programs for the West Bank and Gaza, and ended the annual grant Congress has authorized for Palestinian hospitals operating in East Jerusalem. In addition to these cruel cuts in much needed assistance, the administration closed the Palestinian Mission in Washington and announced plans to redefine who is, in their view, a Palestinian refugee.

At the same time, the White House acquiesced to the passage of Israel’s “Jewish Nation-State Bill” and said nothing in opposition to Israel’s recent announcement of thousands of new settlement units, some in highly sensitive areas—either in Arab East Jerusalem or deep in the heart of the West Bank. They also let pass, without protest, Israel’s planned demolition of an entire Arab village and a number of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem.

In a recent interview with a Sheldon Adelson-owned Israeli newspaper, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, after gloating over his success in moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, made it clear that there is a “new day” in the US-Israel relationship. He said, “We don’t tell Israel what to do,” signaling that Israel can operate with impunity toward the Palestinians and the occupied territories because in the new US view “It’s always Israel’s decision.” In a separate and equally revealing interview, Jared Kushner termed the Trump administration’s moves as necessary to “strip away ‘false realities’”—meaning “taking Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees right of return off the table.”

All of these actions, taken together, tell me that the Trump administration has fully embraced the hardline world view of Israel’s Likud. They reject not only the Palestinian right to self-determination, they also do not accept the very idea of Palestinian “peoplehood.”

The plans they have announced would sever the West Bank from Gaza and leave East Jerusalem and the 28 Palestinian villages trapped within the Israeli-annexed “Greater Jerusalem.” Meanwhile, as a result of the Trump administration’s declared intention to economically strangle UNWRA and end this program, the Palestinians in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan would not only be forced to give up their property rights and their “right of return,” they would be turned over the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees to be resettled in other countries.

If this Trumpian approach were to succeed, the Palestinian nation would be dismembered and dispersed. In their mind, it would cease to exist.

The Israelis, for their part, have been given carte blanche. They get: Jerusalem; an end to the “refugee problem;” the right to declare that only they are entitled to self-determination; freedom to demolish and build, as they wish, in the occupied lands; and an increasingly economically deprived Palestinian population that they hope will either submit to Israel’s will or be forced to leave.

All of this calls to mind an earlier era, when Zionists referred to Palestine as “a land without a people for a people without a land;” or Golda Meir’s “It was not as if there was a Palestinian people in Palestine… They did not exist;” or the religious Zionist claim that God gave this land to them and they should deal harshly with the “strangers” whom they find there.

This hardline Israeli rejection of Palestinians as a nation and a people with rights was to have ended with the Oslo Accords, signed 25 years ago. In the introduction to that Accords, Israel and the Palestinians recognized each other’s right to self-determination. What was left, was to find the way to implement that mutual recognition. Succeeding US administrations failed miserably in pressing the parties to implement the Accords.

For example, instead of “striking while the iron was hot,” the Clinton administration, operating with the faulty assumption that the Israelis and Palestinians could do it on their own, lost precious time, allowing hardline Israelis, Palestinians, and members of Congress to sabotage the fledgling process.

As a frequent visitor to Israel/Palestine in those early years, after seeing the expanding Israeli forms of repression, the growth of settlements, and increased Palestinian bitterness and despair brought on by dramatic spikes in unemployment and poverty, I wrote “if there’s a ‘peace process’ someone forgot to tell the Israeli occupation forces and the Palestinian people.”

The situation went from bad to worse. Israeli politics became more hardline. The “Palestinian Authority” became an economic dependency and a security force without any real control over their territory, their land and their ability to develop. The US, failing to address the asymmetry of power (Israel had it all, while the Palestinians had none), largely functioned as a self-willed impotent shepherd of a dying “peace process”—oftentimes acting less like an “honest broker” and more like the begrudging enabler of Israel’s bad behavior.

And then the peace process died an unannounced and unacknowledged death. Only the fiction of a process remained.

Now, with the Trump administration, the mask is off and the fiction has ended. As it takes shape, as revealed through this administration’s recent actions, Trump’s “ultimate deal” appears to be not a formula for a just peace, but a forced Palestinian acquiescence to the Zionist vision for Palestine. Recognizing this, an Israeli commentator recently sarcastically wrote “First Trump took Jerusalem off the table, then he took the refugees off the table, all he has to do now is take the Palestinians off the table—and I guess we’ll call it peace.”

But not so fast. Despite the dysfunctional state of the Palestinian political order, it must be remembered that it wasn’t the PLO or the Palestinian Authority or UNWRA that created and sustained Palestinian national aspirations. Rather, these bodies, in their time, have embodied those aspirations of the Palestinian people. These entities may disappear or be destroyed—but the will of the Palestinian people lives on. Those who ignore either their will or the fact that the issue of Palestine, for the Arab people, remains “the wound in the heart that never healed” should beware of the consequences of their ignorance.

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James J. Zogby is the president of the Arab American Institute.

Like British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn Canadian lawyer Dimitri Lascaris is the victim of a “Big Lie” slander campaign. Defenders of the most aggressive ongoing European settler colonialism have once again smeared a “proud, anti-racist advocate for human rights.”

In this article I offer some important context regarding the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs’ (CIJA) and B’nai B’rith’s (BB) absurd “anti-Semitism” accusations against Lascaris, which were echoed by the leaders of the four main federal political parties. But, looking at the run up to his ‘offending’ tweet suggests that Lascaris was targeted in an unprecedented smear campaign because he was exposing CIJA and BB’s soft underbelly, notably their dalliance with racist extremists. In the week before he was denounced Lascaris repeatedly challenged CIJA, BB’s and Liberal MP Michael Levitt’s association with individuals making anti-Muslim remarks, death threats against politicians and promoting a book denouncing the “Jewish menace”.

The immediate background to CIJA and BB’s campaign against Lascaris was an August 29 demonstration opposing BB’s smears against the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW). CIJA, BB and Levitt tarred that rally as being racist and threatening. Two days before the display of solidarity with CUPW Levitt issued a statement saying he was “deeply concerned”  and “disturbed” by the planned protest, announcing that he had contacted the police. Afterwards CIJA Vice President for the Greater Toronto Area, Noah Shack, thanked the police and stated: “What the Jewish community of Bathurst Manor witnessed today is a failed attempt at intimidation by a hateful group of protesters.”

But in reality, it was the counter rally of BB supporters that was racist and threatening. In the week after the rally Lascaris repeatedly called on CIJA, BB and Liberal MP Levitt to publicly repudiate the Islamophobia of the pro-BB counter protesters. Prior to his ‘offending’ tweet, Lascaris posted video of protesters making anti-Muslim comments and tweeted “B’nai B’rith can’t bring itself to condemn the white supremacists, racists & Islamophobes who support its organization and who stood at its doorstep last week screaming hatred at supporters of CUPW. Instead, it hurls baseless claims of ‘bigotry’ at its critics.”

Via twitter and Facebook Lascaris also called on them to criticize two BB supporters who called for a number of Muslim and brown politicians to face the death penalty. In a video detailing  their participation in the counter protest, Mary Forrest and a friend called for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and several Muslim MPs to receive the “guillotine” or be “stoned” to death. Lascaris tweeted:

“If a supporter of Palestine called for Israel’s criminal PM Benjamin Netanyahu to be put to death, B’nai B’rith and CIJA would become apopletic and call that person a ‘terrorist’. But when pro-Israel fanatics call for Canada’s PM Justin Trudeau to be killed, they say nothing.”

In another tweet before the supposed “anti-Semitic” comment, Lascaris criticized Levitt’s trip to Israel during which he met the COO of Sodastream. He wrote,

while Michael Levitt showcases Israel’s apartheid regime, supporters of his close ally B’nai B’rith called for the death penalty to be imposed on Justin Trudeau and Levitt’s Liberal colleagues Iqra Khalid, Omar Alghabra and Maryam Monsef. Shamefully, Levitt has said nothing.”

In their video about protesting in support of BB, Forrest and her friend talked about campaigning for former Rebel Media host Faith Goldy, who is running for mayor of Toronto. In fact, the white supremacist mayoral candidate attended the rally in support of BB. In April Goldy promoted a book by Romanian fascist leader Corneliu Codreanu titled For My Legionaries, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as one of “the canonical works of global fascism.” Published in 1937, it repeatedly attacks Jews and calls for eliminating the “Jewish threat”.

Lascaris repeatedly called on BB to denounce their supporters’ association with Goldy. He tweeted, “White supremacist Faith Goldy promoted fascist propaganda calling for eliminating ‘the Jewish menace’. Goldy was warmly received by B’nai B’rith supporters last week. And B’nai B’rith expects us to believe it speaks for Canadian Jewry?”

BB, CIJA and Levitt refused to disassociate themselves from protesters they aligned with before and after the August 29 protest. Instead they distorted an innocuous tweet about their two main allies within the Liberal Party caucus and sought to portray themselves as the victims. To the political establishment’s shame, the leaders of four political parties, as well as numerous other MPs, joined the smear of Lascaris.

Egged on by the politicians, CIJA and BB took their ‘we are victims’ silliness to embarrassing heights. CIJA CEO Shimon Koffler Fogel put out a statement implying that Lascaris’ tweet was somehow connected to Rosh Hashanah. In an attack on the activist-lawyer titled “An Urgent Note Before Rosh Hashanah: Fighting Antisemitism in 5779”, Fogel wrote: “Those who seek to demonize and ultimately dismantle the Jewish State, through BDS and other toxic forms of advocacy, are becoming bolder and more aggressive. They are letting the veil slip on the false distinction between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. And some of them openly seeking to undermine our rights as Jewish Canadians to be accepted as equals in Canadian politics, democracy, and civil society. It’s clearer than ever that the fight against the anti-Israel agenda is a fight to preserve the future of the Canadian Jewish community.”

B’nai B’rith CEO Michael Mostyn made the connection to the Jewish New Year more clear, tweeting “Two days before Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest days in Judaism, Dimitri Lascaris hurled an antisemitic trope at Canadian leaders that was even promoted in the ‘Elders of the Protocols of Zion.’”

Mostyn followed this shameful tweet by revealing the direct political objective of the attacks against Lascaris. BB’s head tweeted, “Canadians expect ALL their elected officials across the political spectrum to refuse to interact with CJPME [Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East] until it apologizes and removes Dimitri Lascaris as their chair – this would certainly include Niki Ashton”, who Lascaris supported in the NDP leadership race.

Comparing the Left’s response to the attacks on Lascaris and activist-author Nora Loreto six months ago is informative. While both faced unprecedented backlash for publishing relatively innocuous tweets, only one of the social justice campaigners received substantial support from radical leftists.

This doesn’t bode well for the Left’s ability to respond to the accusations of anti-Semitism certain to follow Niki Ashton or someone with similar politics taking the reins of the NDP or another Left party coming close to governing. Israel lobby groups’ spectacular campaign against Corbyn in Britain and their smears against Lascaris suggests that anyone serious about building a movement for climate justice, economic inequality, indigenous rights, etc. needs to think carefully about the best ways to counter CIJA, BB, etc. smear tactics.

We need to be prepared for the next Big Lies.

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Who is Osama bin Laden. Interview with Michel Chossudovsky

September 17th, 2018 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

A few hours after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, the Bush administration concluded without supporting evidence, that “Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda organisation were prime suspects”. CIA Director George Tenet stated that bin Laden has the capacity to plan “multiple attacks with little or no warning.” Secretary of State Colin Powell called the attacks “an act of war” and President Bush confirmed in an evening televised address to the Nation that he would “make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them”.

Listen to Michel Chossudovsky on Spreaker.

Phillip Farruggio’s Interview with Michel Chossudovsky

on It’s the Empire Stupid

or  click  here 

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Selected Excerpts from Michel Chossudovsky’s writings

Who is Osama bin Laden 

Former CIA Director James Woolsey pointed his finger at “state sponsorship,” implying the complicity of one or more foreign governments. In the words of former National Security Adviser, Lawrence Eagleburger, “I think we will show when we get attacked like this, we are terrible in our strength and in our retribution.”

Meanwhile, parroting official statements, the Western media mantra has approved the launching of “punitive actions” directed against civilian targets in the Middle East. In the words of William Saffire writing in the New York Times: “When we reasonably determine our attackers’ bases and camps, we must pulverize them — minimizing but accepting the risk of collateral damage” — and act overtly or covertly to destabilize terror’s national hosts”.  (Who is Osama bin Laden, Global Research, September 12, 2001)

Where was Osama on Septembers 11? 

There is evidence that the whereabouts of Osama are known to the Bush Administration.

On September 10. 2001, “Enemy Number One” was in a Pakistani military hospital in Rawalpindi, courtesy of America’s indefectible ally Pakistan, as confirmed by a report of Dan Rather, CBS News. (See our October 2003 article on this issue)

He could have been arrested at short notice which would have “saved us a lot of trouble”, but then we would not have had an Osama Legend, which has fed the news chain as well as George W’s speeches in the course of the last five years.

According to Dan Rather, CBS, Bin Laden was hospitalized in Rawalpindi. one day before the 9/11 attacks, on September 10, 2001.

The Cell Phones: “We Have Some Planes” 

The 9/11 Commission’s Report provides an almost visual description of the Arab hijackers. It depicts in minute detail events occurring inside the cabin of the four hijacked planes.

In the absence of surviving passengers, this “corroborating evidence”, was based on passengers’ cell and air phone conversations with their loved ones. According to the Report, the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) was only recovered in the case of one of the flights (UAL 93).

Focusing on the personal drama of the passengers, the Commission has built much of its narrative around the phone conversations. The Arabs are portrayed with their knives and box cutters, scheming in the name of Allah, to bring down the planes and turn them “into large guided missiles” (Report, Chapter 1, http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report_Ch1.pdf ).

The Technology of Wireless Transmission

The Report conveys the impression that cell phone ground-to-air communication from high altitude was of reasonably good quality, and that there was no major impediment or obstruction in wireless transmission.

Some of the conversations were with onboard air phones, which contrary to the cell phones provide for good quality transmission. The report does not draw a clear demarcation between the two types of calls.

More significantly, what this carefully drafted script fails to mention is that, given the prevailing technology in September 2001, it was extremely difficult, if not impossible, to place a wireless cell call from an aircraft traveling at high speed above 8000 feet:

“Wireless communications networks weren’t designed for ground-to-air communication. Cellular experts privately admit that they’re surprised the calls were able to be placed from the hijacked planes, and that they lasted as long as they did. They speculate that the only reason that the calls went through in the first place is that the aircraft were flying so close to the ground ( http://www.elliott.org/technology/2001/cellpermit.htm

Expert opinion within the wireless telecom industry casts serious doubt on “the findings” of the 9/11 Commission. According to Alexa Graf, a spokesman of AT&T, commenting in the immediate wake of the 9/11 attacks:

“it was almost a fluke that the [9/11] calls reached their destinations… From high altitudes, the call quality is not very good, and most callers will experience drops. Although calls are not reliable, callers can pick up and hold calls for a little while below a certain altitude”

( http://wirelessreview.com/ar/wireless_final_contact/)

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A recently published report shows the number of detained migrant children is almost five times greater than the nearly 3,000 previously reported by the Donald Trump administration.

According to a New York Times report, 12,800 migrant children are currently being detained by the United States’ government.

In the report, the NY Times claims the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) attributes the increase to a reduction in the number of children being allowed to live with relatives or sponsors while their court cases progress, and not to a similar increase in the number of children entering the U.S.

A direct consequence of Trump’s zero-tolerance policy towards illegal immigration,

“Red tape and fear brought on by stricter immigration enforcement have discouraged relatives and family friends from coming forward to sponsor children,” the NY Times reported.

Earlier this year authorities announced that potential sponsors, including family members, would have to submit fingerprints during the required vetting process and that their data would be shared with immigration authorities. Most potential sponsors are undocumented immigrants themselves, so this policy acts as a deterrent.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has warned of the negative effects of child detention.

“Detention cannot be justified based solely on the fact that the child is unaccompanied or separated, or on the basis of his or her migration or residence status. …This is particularly critical as recent studies have indicated that detention of children can undermine their psychological and physical well-being and compromise their cognitive development. Furthermore, children held in detention are at risk of suffering depression and anxiety, and frequently exhibit symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder,” it argued in a 2017 paper.

The danger to children is significantly increased by the strain on the immigration detention center system, which is making it harder for authorities to guarantee minors safety and proper treatment.

In recent months, interviews with detained migrant children have revealed they are being kept in overcrowded and unhygienic conditions. Migrant children have experienced alleged mistreatment, sexual abuse, negligence, and sleep deprivation. Reunited families have also said minors were returned traumatized, withdrawn, and scared.

Despite social uproar and condemnation, on Tuesday the Trump administration announced it will triple the size of a temporary detention center in Tornillo, Texas, to house up to 3,800. According to an exclusive CBS News investigation, Tornillo and Homestead, another large temporary detention center, are exempt from “surprise” child welfare inspections designed to guarantee the health and safety of children kept at these centers.

The Trump administration also announced reforms last week to allow indefinite detention by keeping parents and children together in custody. Analysts argue that the reform will open a new judicial battle because it would violate the 1997 Flores settlement, which stipulates children can only be kept in immigrant detention for up to 20 days.

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Emboldened by Trump’s continuing threats to protect al-Qaeda in Syria, Israel has chosen the joyous occasion of the Damascus 60th International Fair…to bomb Damascus International Airport. Not that it matters to Israel — or to Trump — it is a war crime to bomb civilian planes and airports. Several missiles were intercepted by Syria’s air defense system and no casualties have been reported at this writing. 

As with its 4 September bombings, Israel may have again attempted to test the Syrian air defenses for recently acquired S300 systems for the anticipated Three Musketeers plus Germany’s coming aggressions against Syria, to protect their Al-Qaeda terrorists in Idlib — the most perverse generation of Al-Qaeda, whose White Helmets faction have kidnapped dozens of Syrian children and have their canisters of weapons-grade chlorine ready.

On that date, Syria’s Ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari “again noted the anomaly of the SAA using CWs it does not have only during the times it is making huge military progress, and the oddity that the armed terrorists never get killed, despite not being in proper biohazard garb, and how strange that these weapons Syria does not have only kill women and children.”

Israel chose this time in an impotent attempt to destroy the joyous occasion of the final day of the very successful edition of the Damascus International Fair. One-half million persons attended the exposition, whose exhibits included such miracles as the SAHAB 73 airplane.

The airport is just kilometers away from the fair grounds; surely Israel was disappointed in its criminal missiles being intercepted, but also that the people at the fair did not panic, did not flinch; they continued their visit. These are the resilient people of Syria who have stood up to the US and UK invaders of Iraq, who are surrounded by NATO and NATO stooges. These are Syrians who have fought and won a massively armed al-Qaeda and all of its derivative sects. They are on the verge of getting their country back on its feet once Syria finishes off al-Qaeda’s last stronghold, in Idlib.

These people should not be tested; whoever challenges them will end up losing and losing dearly.

Including Israel.

Demonization of Russia in a New Cold War Era

September 16th, 2018 by Mairead Maguire

In examining the future, we must look to the past.

As we watch the media today, we are spoon fed more and more propaganda and fear of the unknown, that we should be afraid of the unknown and have full faith that our government is keeping us safe from the unknown. But by looking at media today, those of us who are old enough will be reminded of the era of Cold War news articles, hysteria of how the Russians would invade and how we should duck and cover under tables in our kitchens for the ensuing nuclear war.

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Under this mass hysteria all Western governments were convinced that we should join Western allies to fight the unknown evil that lies to the east. Later through my travels in Russia during the height of the Cold War with a peace delegation, we were shocked by the poverty of the country, and questioned how we ever were led to believe that Russia was a force to be afraid of. We talked to the Russian students who were dismayed by their absolute poverty and showed anger against NATO for leading their country into an arms race that they could not win. Many years later, when speaking to young Americans in the US, I was in disbelief about the fear the students had of Russia and their talk of invasion. This is a good example of how the unknown can cause a deep rooted paranoia when manipulated by the right powers.

All military is expensive, and we can see in Europe that the countries are reluctant to expand their military spending and find it hard to justify this to their people. In looking at this scenario, we can ask ourselves what is beneficial about this hysteria and fear caused on both sides. All armies must have an enemy to deem them necessary. An enemy must be created, and the people must be convinced that there is need for action to safeguard the freedom of their country.

Right now, we can see a shifting of financial power from old Western powers to the rise of the Middle East and Asia. Do we honestly believe that the Western allies are going to give up their power? My suggestion is: not easily. The old dying empires will fight tooth and nail to protect their financial interests such as the petrol dollar and the many benefits that come through their power over poverty-stricken countries.

Firstly, I must say, that I personally believe that Russia is not by any means without faults. But the amount of anti-Russian propaganda in our media today is a throwback to the Cold War era. We must ask the question: Is this leading to more arms, a bigger NATO? Possibly to challenge large powers in the Middle East and Asia, as we see the US approaching the South China seas, and NATO Naval games taking place in the Black Sea.

Missile compounds are being erected in Romania, Poland and other ex-Soviet countries, while military games are set up in Scandinavia close to the Russian border to practice for a cold climate war scenario. At the same time, we see the US President arriving in Europe asking for increased military spending. At the same time the USA has increased its budget by 300 billion in one year.

The demonization of Russia is, I believe, one of the most dangerous things that is happening in our world today. The scapegoating of Russia is an inexcusable game that the West is indulging in. It is time for political leaders and each individual to move us back from the brink of catastrophe to begin to build relationships with our Russian brothers and sisters. Too long has the elite financially gained from war while millions are moved into poverty and desperation.

The people of the world have been subjected to war propaganda based on lies and misinformation and we have seen the results of invasions and occupations by NATO disguised as “humanitarian intervention” and “right to protect”. NATO has destroyed the lives of millions of people and purposely devastated their lands, causing the exodus of millions of refugees. The people around the world must not be misled yet again. I personally believe that the US, the UK and France are the most military minded countries, whose inability to use their imagination and creativity to solve conflict through dialogue and negotiation is astonishing to myself and many people. In a highly militarized, dangerous world it is important we start to humanize each other and find ways of cooperation, and build fraternity amongst the nations.

The policies of demonization of political leaders as a means of preparing the way for invasions and wars must be stopped immediately and serious effort put in to the building of relationships across the world. The isolation and marginalization of countries will only lead to extremism, fundamentalism and violence.

During our visit to Moscow we had the pleasure of attending a celebration of mass at the main Orthodox Cathedral. I was very inspired by the deep spirituality and faith of the people as they sang the entire three-hour mass. I was moved by the culture of the Russian people and I could feel that their tremendous history of suffering and persecution gave them sensitivity and passion for peace.

Surely it is time that we in Europe refuse to be put in a position where we are forced to choose between our Russian and American brothers and sisters. The enormous problems that we are faced with, such as, due to climate change and wars, mass migration and movement of peoples around the world, need to be tackled as a world community. The lifting of sanctions against Russia and the setting up of programs of cooperation will help build friendships amongst the nations.

I call on all people to encourage their political leaders in the US, EU and Russia to show vision and political leadership and use their skills to build trust and work for peace and nonviolence.

*

Mairead Corrigan Maguire won the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her work for peace in Northern Ireland. Her book, The Vision of Peace (edited by John Dear, with a foreword by Desmond Tutu and a preface by the Dalai Lama) is available from www.wipfandstock.com. She lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. See: www.peacepeople.com

Featured image is from Strategic Culture Foundation.

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Australia and the Woes of Climate Change States

September 16th, 2018 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

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As Australia’s tattered yet new government, led by the increasingly oafish and amateurish Scott Morrison trundled into its post-climate phase, states which see their existence as dependent on the cutting of carbon emissions have been more than a touch concerned. Their reality remains divorced from the paper clip conspiracies of Canberra and the energy cliques obsessed with cutting prices. 

Morrison’s ascension to power was yet another, existentially imposed headache in the aftermath of US President Donald J. Trump’s announcement that the United States would be making a dash from any obligations and aspirations associated with the Paris Climate Agreement. Pacific Island states were starting to write up their wills.

When the decision by Trump was made in the middle of last year, such states as Samoa and Fiji felt a shudder. 

“His decision,” came the press release from an assortment of Pacific Island Civil Society Organisations, “is a clear sign of his continued support of the fossil fuel industry which directly threatens the lives of communities living in the Pacific Islands.” 

The Australian response, ever mindful of the wishes of its obese cousin and all powerful defender, has reflected a certain bipolar conditioning on matters ecological and climactic.  Canberra takes the position, when convenient to its neighbours, that climate change is genuine, dangerous and in need of serious consideration.  When necessary, amnesia takes hold. 

In the aftermath of Morrison’s replacement of sitting Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama sent a salutary reminder to the new Australian leader couched in a disarming note of congratulation. 

“I look forward to working with you across a broad front, including the global campaign for action on climate change, the greatest threat facing Australia and all of your neighbours in the Pacific.” 

This, to a man who had coarsely brandished a lump of coal in the Australian parliament in February last year, supplied by the good offices of the Minerals Council of Australia. “This is coal,” he guffawed to his opponents, caressing the inert item in his hand with a fetishist’s resolve. “Don’t be afraid; don’t be scared.” 

Morrison ought to be suffering jitters from such figures as Samoa’s Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele, who has made it clear how climate change laggards should be treated. 

“We all know the problem, we all know the solutions,” he explained to the Lowy Institute at the end of last month, “and all that is left would be some political courage, some political guts, to tell people of your country there is a certainty of disaster.”

Then came the delicious blow, landed between the gizzards.  “So any leader of any country who believes that there is no climate change, I think he ought to be taken to mental confinement.  He is utterly stupid.  And I say the same thing to any leader here. 

Despite such cataclysmic promises, Australia’s politicians remain resilient before the inconveniences of reality, and warm to the enticements of stupidity.  The big god coal, and associate demigod fossil fuels, call the tune.   

The new Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, made the necessary, paternalistic adjustments for her audience earlier this month ahead of the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru.  This line waxes and wanes along the issue of aid, the condescending drip aid designed to influence more than change.  The angle on Australian generosity was pushed (daddy with deep pockets cares), as much to counter the phantom of Chinese influence in the region as anything else. “The largest development assistance in the region is overwhelmingly coming from Australia; in fact it will hit the largest contribution ever during 2018-19 at $1.3 billion.” 

Payne also busied herself bribing regional neighbours with such reassurances as employment, a tribute to an old legacy of enticing black labour to an economy short of staffing.  Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, she said with soothing corruption, would be added to Australia’s Pacific Labour Scheme, nothing less than a traditional, extracting incentive for the Australian economy.  As ever, the benefit would be for Australia more than anybody else: citizens from those countries would be able to fill the necessary jobs in rural and regional Australia.  (Well and good – they might, in time, have no country to return to.) 

Despite the issue of climate change making its inevitable appearance on the agenda, Payne preferred to see it as one of the items for discussion, rather than the main show.  “We really recognise that our Pacific Island neighbours are particularly vulnerable to climate change.”  Australia had been purportedly “working hard” towards climate change commitments, though Payne failed to spell out any coherent steps of late.  

The internal politics of the governing coalition in Australia remains intimately related to the fossil fuel industries and climate change sceptics.  The schismatic Tony Abbott remains convinced that Australia should go the way of Trump, and more than a sprinkling of his colleagues think the same.  Central to this is not environmental degradation so much as cheaper energy prices, which has become the holy of holies, the El Dorado of policy makers.  Such is the thinking that accompanies the short term aspirations of shop keeping types even as it dooms island states to watery oblivion.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Email: [email protected]

Flight MH17, Ukraine and the New Cold War. Prism of Disaster.

September 16th, 2018 by Prof. Kees van der Pijl

‘Based on wide-ranging meticulous research, van der Pijl utilises the case of the downing of MH17 as a prism to refract the political corruption of state-directed oligarchic capitalism in Ukraine coupled to the self-interest of a neo-liberal driven European Union. He offers a masterly analysis of the complex domestic personal relationships and class forces involved in the breakup of Ukraine and the wider Soviet bloc, and concurrently the clash by foreign interests for material assets. The discussion of the downing of MH17 is based on a wide range of sources and provides the best available case study of the topic. Van der Pijl’s research raises controversial conclusions both about the validity of the process, the conclusions of the investigation of the crash and the wider motivations of the principal interests.

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This is a book which can be recommended to students of contemporary capitalism, of the transformation of the socialist block as well as to those concerned with contemporary international affairs.

It builds a convincing case of instances of collusion, misrepresentation, ‘fake news’ and lying underpinning the actions and policies of Ukrainian leaders and Western interests. There is a chilling message in the book – the propensity to resort to force and military action – which should worry all citizens. This is a book which deserves to be widely read and its uncomfortable conclusions will be intensely debated by students.’

David Lane, Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and Emeritus Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge University

‘Providing an essential counterpoint to the dominant post-Soviet narrative – that neoliberal capitalism brings democracy and prosperity – Kees van der Pijl blasts his way through decades of western myth-making to expose the brutal reality: that America’s drive for global domination continues. And as the US falters economically it uses its raw military power to enforce an unchallenged unipolar world – its goal is neoliberal global governance backed by full spectrum military dominance and US nuclear primacy. But powerful political and economic forces are working to resist this never-ending US expansionism. Van der Pijl reveals the latest stages in this global struggle, this new cold war, in a forensic and captivating account, centred on the conflict in Ukraine – a microcosm of the current global crisis.’

Kate Hudson, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), Media Officer of Left Unity and Visiting Research Fellow at London South Bank University

‘This book successfully combines top-down and bottom-up approaches to the evolution of EU-US confrontation with Russia from the key year 2008, when Russia turned from hopeful member of the US-led global alliance to a “contender,” challenging that hegemony in what is now a new Cold War. Van der Pijl applies penetrating analysis from political economy, showing how the latest crises of global capitalism play out in the fault lines of Ukraine. As for the bottom-up narratives, we find here clear delineation of the intersection of oligarchs and political fractions dating from Ukraine’s independence to time present. The narrative on the ground slows to detailed accounting for every historic turn directly leading up to and following the coup d’etat of February 2014, providing the full context for the MH17 air catastrophe. Easily readable, but with full scholarly attributes of Notes, extensive bibliography and index.’

Dr Gilbert Doctorow, Russia specialist and journalist

‘A must for anyone studying the origins of the new Cold War. A profound analysis of the geopolitical context of the Ukrainian civil war. The book is well written and highly accessible. It contains a lot of material that did not find its way to the Western main-stream press. Van der Pijl shows how especially Western involvement transformed Ukrainian internal struggles into a conflict between NATO and Russia. The book is a valuable contribution to the debate about the recent history of Ukraine.’

Hans van Zon, Professor Emeritus, Central and Eastern European Studies, University of Sunderland, author of The Political Economy of Independent Ukraine

‘Kees van der Pijl has succeeded once again. Revisiting the downing of Flight MH17 in order to develop a macro-analysis of the contemporary global political economy, Flight MH17, Ukraine and the new Cold War  is a magisterial work that demystifies the contemporary discussions on Russia and East-West relations. Rich in insight and information – bringing together history, political economy and geopolitics – it will certainly impact current debates on international politics.’

Professor Leonardo César Souza Ramos, Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil

‘Kees van der Pijl is both an eagle and a truffle hunter. Like a truffle hunter he reconstructs in great detail the downing on 17 July 2014 of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine, killing 296 passengers and crew. Like an eagle he situates this catastrophe in the much broader picture of the Soviet Union’s disintegration and the concurrent NATO and EU expansion. Van der Pijl’s well-written study does not give a definitive answer to the question “who did it?”, but helps us immensely to understand the context of this tragic event.’

Dr Marcel van der Linden, International Institute of Social History, Professor Emeritus, University of Amsterdam

***

Excerpt from Chapter 1

The Global Gamble of a New Cold War

Eastern Partnership Versus Eurasian Union

Meanwhile, Washington and a bloc of Baltic states led by Poland and Sweden were crafting a comprehensive Cold War response to Russia’s new contender posture, the Eastern Partnership. Although nominally an EU venture, it was actually an Atlantic undertaking of which Europe was only the subcontractor: the EU would be unceremoniously sidelined when the going got tough—in February 2014.

Well before the Georgian debacle, the Bush administration had become sceptical about the outcomes of the Rose and Orange Revolutions. The incoming rulers in Tbilisi and Kiev and the oligarchs seemed interested only in private enrichment.  American planners therefore began to devise ways of constitutionalising ‘market democracy’ in post-regime-change states. Dissatisfied with the timid proposals of her initial policy planning director, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice brought Stanford International Relations scholar, Stephen Krasner, to the State Department in 2005. In his new role, Krasner collaborated with Carlos Pascual, a former director in the National Security Council responsible for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, and appointed US ambassador in Kiev in 2000. Pascual was credited with having convinced Kiev to join in the Iraq invasion, amidst general approval for that criminal adventure among governments in ‘the new Europe’. 

After his return in late 2003, Pascual became Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization in the State Department and, with Krasner, devised a strategy for preventive intervention in weak states (‘weakness’ including ethnic or religious divisions) and a stabilization and reconstruction rulebook listing the measures by which ‘market democracy’ was to be established. On this basis, a list of countries liable to ‘collapse in conflict’ was drawn up, for which ‘reconstruction blueprints’ were to be prepared even if they had not yet in fact collapsed. In a talk at Georgetown University in October 2004, Pascual explained that this would not only allow intervention by rapid-response teams composed of private companies, NGOs and think tanks (saving ‘three to six months in response time’), but also enable them to ‘change the very social fabric of a nation’ on the basis of the said contracts. As Naomi Klein reported,

The office’s mandate is not to rebuild any old states… but to create “democratic and market-oriented” ones. So, for instance …, [Pascual’s] fast-acting reconstructors might help sell off “state-owned enterprises that created a nonviable economy.” Sometimes rebuilding, he explained, means “tearing apart the old”.

In this strategy, Ukraine’s Naftogaz, the gas and oil holding, was such a ‘state-owned enterprise’ in  ‘a nonviable economy’, although, as we will see in chapter 5, the attempt to privatise it would eventually run aground in the face of oligarch resistance. Generally, however, governments in collapsed countries ‘take orders well’. This would apply to all the successor states of the Soviet Union, including Russia under Yeltsin. Given Pascual’s CV and the anti-Russian tendency in Washington, his reasoning also served as a blueprint for intervention in Ukraine to weld democracy promotion, economic warfare and the application of military force into a ‘new art of military intervention premised on the temporary occupation and technocratic reconstruction-reconstitution of illiberal societies’. A state benefiting from this would also find its sovereignty limited, or as Krasner calls it, be assigned ‘shared sovereignty’, ‘a voluntary agreement between recognized national political authorities and an external actor such as another state or a regional or international organization’.

The limited sovereignty contract for Ukraine, which its president would step back from signing in 2013, would take the form, paradoxically given its elaboration in Washington, of an EU Association Agreement in combination with a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). It was inscribed in the Eastern Partnership, initiated by the Baltic bloc. The Partnership, an offshoot of the European Neighbourhood Policy of 2004, was added to the ‘multi-layered drive to expand so-called European institutions such as NATO, the European Union, and all the organizations complementing them’. This drive increasingly focused on thwarting the Eurasian Economic Community of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, in which Ukraine had obtained observer status in 2002. Its first concrete instalment, a Customs Union, was planned to come into effect in 2009.

The Eastern Partnership was proposed by  the Polish foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski. A British citizen since his studies in Oxford, he only gave up his UK passport in 2006 when he was appointed Minister for Defence. His attitude toward Russia was revealed when he likened  the Nordstream project with Gazprom to the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Via his wife, the author and US citizen, Anne Applebaum, Sikorski is part of a neoconservative coterie which also includes the co-founder of the Project for a New American Century, Robert Kagan, and his wife, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland. Nuland was on Cheney’s staff in the Bush years and was kept on under Obama; she eventually became the stage manager of the coup d’état in Kiev in February 2014. Sikorski drafted the Eastern Partnership proposal with Sweden’s foreign minister, Carl Bildt, the neoliberal nemesis of prime minister Olaf Palme in the 1980s, to give it more traction in the EU and dissimulate its Atlantic signature. It was Bildt who identified the EU Association Agreement as a market democracy contract when he characterised it as requiring a complete make-over of the country’s rules on property and competition, which in turn ‘will provoke really fundamental transformations in the long run. 

In May 2008, the Eastern Partnership was offered to six former Soviet republics, Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova (the four GUAM states), Belarus (which briefly before had still been branded ‘Europe’s last dictatorship’) and Armenia. It was formally launched at the Prague EU Summit of 2009. Sensing that Ukraine and the Black Sea were key targets in the envisaged Partnership, from which Russia was to be excluded, Moscow countered by proposing a tripartite structure with the EU and Ukraine to modernise the country’s gas pipeline grid and prevent future disruptions of the supply to Europe (as had happened again in January of that year), but this was dismissed. Likewise, Russian proposals floated to investigate the compatibility of the Eurasian customs union and the DCFTA were judged inadmissible from the EU perspective. After the Georgia conflict, Germany and France gave up their opposition to that country’s association with NATO, against a backdrop of urgent expert advice to work for closer ties with Ukraine. 

The EU became the executor of this essentially Atlantic project at a time when American forward pressure towards Eastern Europe had slackened due to the financial crisis and the US presidential elections and when it was expected that the Bush-era enthusiasm for regime change would be scaled back. The EU had, moreover, abandoned its consensual approach in its drive for a European Constitution. Though it was voted down in referendums in France and the Netherlands in 2005, the EU rammed it though as the Lisbon Treaty without alterations (apart from trivia such as the ‘European anthem’) in 2007. Coming into force in 2009,  it required accession countries not only to open their economies but also align their defence and security policies with those of NATO. As we will see in chapter 3, the Baltic bloc would lead the effort of convincing other EU states of the need to draw in Ukraine, whilst the Obama administration was ‘leading from behind’ until it shifted gear following Putin’s return to the Russian presidency in 2012, and actually directed the regime change in Kiev.

From 2010, then, the EU began binding invitees to the Eastern Partnership to the Western camp through a limited sovereignty contract including key defence provisions. However, as Richard Sakwa noted, this was bound to have grave consequences, particularly where Ukraine was concerned: ‘the effective merger of EU security integration with the Atlantic security community meant that [Ukraine’s ] association with the EU… took on dangerous security connotations [for Russia], as well as challenging Moscow’s own plans for economic integration in Eurasia.’  

The EU was launched on the path of geopolitical competition, something for which it was neither institutionally nor intellectually ready. Not only was the Association Agreement incompatible with Ukraine’s existing free-trade agreements with Russia, but there was also the Lisbon [Treaty] requirement for Ukraine to align its defence and security policy with the EU. This was an extraordinary inversion: instead of overcoming the logic of conflict, the EU became an instrument for its reproduction in new forms.

Since the US’s aim in this new, third Cold War, like the second, was regime change in Moscow, whilst reining in any independent European posture, it relied on the armour of coercion in every domain, including nuclear weapons. 

*

Prof. Kees van der Pijl is fellow of the Centre for Global Political Economy and Emeritus Professor in the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex.


Flight MH17, Ukraine and the new Cold War

Title: Flight MH17, Ukraine and the New Cold War (Prism of disaster)

Author: Kees van der Pijl

ISBN: 978-1-5261-3109-6

Publisher: Manchester University Press

Pages: 208

Price: £18.99

Click here to order.

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Earlier this week, John Bolton—Trump’s national security adviser and basically the president of US foreign policy—told the Federalist Society he would see to punitive sanctions if the International Criminal Court at The Hague moves to charge American soldiers who “served” in Afghanistan with war crimes. 

“If the court comes after us, Israel or other US allies, we will not sit quietly,” said Bolton. He said the US is ready to impose financial sanctions and go so far as to arrest members of the court.

“We will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the United States. We will sanction their funds in the US financial system, and we will prosecute them in the US criminal system,” he said. 

France 24 reported:

Bolton pointed to an ICC prosecutor’s request in November 2017 to open an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by the US military and intelligence officials in Afghanistan, especially over the abuse of detainees.

Neither Afghanistan nor any other government party to the ICC’s Rome Statute has requested an investigation, Bolton said.

The US has occupied Afghanistan and handpicked its government for the last seventeen years, so obviously it will not bite the hand of its master.  

Ashraf Ghani, the current president, will follow orders to the letter. The alternative is to be strung up by the Taliban. 

Ghani isn’t a peasant who came up through the ranks. He was educated at Johns Hopkins University, worked for the World Bank, and gave a TED talk a few years back. Ghani was considered as a candidate to replace Kofi Annan as Secretary General of the United Nations in 2006. 

As the exceptional nation, the indispensable nation, the United States believes it is above the law and arrogantly violates it in broad daylight. 

The US was a serial violator well before the Geneva Conventions. It committed war crimes during the Philippine-American war in 1898 (most notoriously, executing children). 

During the Second World War the US attacked rescue vessels, executed prisoners, and soldiers routinely raped women. Of course, this pales in comparison to firebombing Tokyo and Dresden, and dropping atomic bombs on civilians. 

In Korea, the US is responsible for the No Gun Ri Massacre and other atrocities. The country was bombed back to the Stone Age.

In Vietnam, the brutality of the US was exposed with the My Lai Massacre (many of the victims were mutilated and raped). Of course, this might be considered a small incident when compared to the organized destruction of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The US organized death squads under Operation Phoenix. 

But this was a long time ago, and the memory of the American public is short. Primary example: the late John McCain, a US pilot who bombed civilian targets in North Vietnam, is considered a “hero.”  

The “war on terror” consists of non-stop crimes against humanity. Neocons in the George W. Bush administration flaunted international norms all over the place. 

In 2002, Bush issued a memorandum permitting the military to deny protections under the Geneva Conventions. The Supreme Court challenged the internment of detainees and military tribunals held at the Guantanamo Bay gulag. But not even the court can put a stop to such psychopathic behavior. 

Legal proceedings were held in Germany. Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, George Tenet, and others were accused of torture and prisoner abuse. 

This behavior was subsequently legalized by the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which retroactively rewrote the War Crimes Act and abolished habeas corpus for detainees. 

The Bush (actually the Reagan era) neocons had nothing but contempt for international law. 

“When trying to disguise the emptiness of the ‘bomb them and just see’ approach, the neocons still like to appeal to the depth of the great 20th century German-Jewish emigre philosopher Leo Strauss,” writes Robert Howse. “In one attack on the supposed weakness of Obama’s foreign and security policy, Bill Kristol cited Strauss’s remark  ‘the sorry spectacle of justice without a sword or of justice unable to use the sword.’”

The sword of justice—nukes (Hiroshima and Nagasaki), firebombing civilians (Tokyo and Dresden), killing one third of Korea’s population, slaughtering countless peasants in Vietnam, and the atrocities and illegality of the war on terror, the invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, “special operations” in Africa and shipping jihadi maniacs and weapons into Syria, thus far resulting in over half a million dead.  

John Bolton is undoubtedly well aware of these violations of international law, but can the same be said for the president-in-waiting, known for his ignorance of international affairs? And if he did understand, it wouldn’t matter. He has advocated “bombing the shit” out of small, recalcitrant nations, while knowing practically nothing about those nations. 

 Finally, as Russia has demonstrated, sanctions are not an effective form of punishment for defying the exceptional nation and its neoliberal globalist objectives. The only thing that works for the neocons is bombing and mass murder. 

So, when will Bolton bomb The Hague? 

*

This article was originally published on the author’s blog site: Another Day in the Empire.

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Spain’s President, socialist Pedro Sanchez, canceled a week ago the sale of 400 laser-guided missiles to the Saudis for humanitarian reasons (value of the missile contract € 9.2 million –US$ 10.7 million). A couple of days ago, he reversed that noble decision, reinstating the sale, because the Saudis threatened cancelling their contract for 5 “Corvette” warships to be built by Navantia over the next few years, for a value of € 1.8 billion (US$ 2.1 billion), providing work for some 6000 shipyard workers in one of the economically worst hit areas of Spain, Cadiz Province of Andalusia.

So, to safe jobs, Sanchez decided to sell the bombs after all – the very bombs that will further decimate the Yemeni population – kill masses of children and increase the untold, unfathomable misery for this poor country, strategically located on the Gulf of Aden.

The war ships, Spain is producing for the Saudis, are certainly not going to bring peace to the world either; they bring perhaps work to Spanish shipyard workers, but, Dear Mr. Sanchez, where are your ethics, where is your sense of Human Rights?

Would it not be more ethical to help Spanish workers find alternative jobs, or while they are looking, pay them unemployment at a decent level? Perhaps exceptional unemployment, because the reason for the unemployment in this case is ‘exceptional’ and ethical to the point that the workers would probably understand – a sense of integrity and conscience they may proudly pass on to their children.

To top it all off – Spain’s Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles, pretends that the Saudis have to guarantee that the missiles will not be used against Yemenis. Whom does she think she is fooling? – Would the Spanish people be so blind to reality to believe this lie? – I don’t think so. The Spaniards, having gone themselves through ten years of foreign imposed economic austerity hardship, an economic warfare of sorts, are more awake than believing dishonesties that serve the capitalist, profit-seeking war industry.

The Spanish bombs may substantially contribute to the killing of tens of thousands of Yemenis and among them countless defenseless children and women. The delivery of these missiles would be a tacit recognition and acceptance that the Saudis, supported by the US, the UK and France, block vital food and medical supplies from entering Yemen, thereby starving literally millions to death. And most likely the Spanish warships are creating in Yemen or elsewhere even worse human suffering.

Instead, Mr. Sanchez – why not showing your heart and compassion for these innocent victims of western aggression, overriding your Minister of Defense, and block the sale of the 400 deadly missiles and the 5 killer Corvettes?

*

According to Mint Press News (10 September, 2018), the UN estimates that nearly 20 million Yemenis could die from starvation this year. That’s about 70% of the entire population, and that horrific number includes more than 2 million children. Two to three generations wiped out by the world’s most criminal monster nations, the Saudis, supported by the US, UK, France specifically, and more generally, by NATO. About 500,000 of these children already show severe signs of malnutrition, which, if it lasts over an extended period of time, may cause severe brain damage and stunting, effects that might even be passed on to future generations.

Since the onset of the war which typically and conveniently is called by the west a ‘civil war’ which it is of course not – the US has supported the confrontation with over US$ 200 billion of war planes and weapons, and the UK with missiles and bombs. This war of aggression by the US and western puppet allies, aiming foremost at dominating the country’s geographic and geostrategic location, overlooking the Gulf of Aden and further to the east, the Arabian Sea, leading to the Persian Gulf, has created the worst humanitarian crisis in modern history.

Under international pressure and a UN appeal, the Saudis have offered US$ 300 million worth of humanitarian aid – food and medication – with deadly strings attached. They have weaponizing this humanitarian aid, by closing the main ports of entry, especially the one of Hodeida, so the aid could not reach the population in need. Yemen relies for 80% of her food supply on maritime imports, 90% of which normally enters through the Red Sea port of Hodeida.

The Saudis – always with the explicit support of Washington – targeted on purpose key survival installations, like water supply and sewerage systems, agricultural fields, market places, food storage sites, power generation and electricity grids, hospitals, schools, basic transportation infrastructure – all to create the most abject scenario for starvation and disease, especially intestinal diseases, dysentery, cholera, from lack of drinking water and sewage pollution. With a currency that loses every day more of its value and skyrocketing food prices, three quarters of the population depends on humanitarian aid – most of which is blocked at the points of entry.

The last remaining lifeline for about 18 million Yemenis is the port of Hodeida. In fact, the assault on the port city of Hodeida is led by another U.S. Gulf coalition ally, the United Arab Emirates. The deadly operation to capture Hodeida is dubbed “Golden Victory”, putting up to a million people into an open prison of sexual torture, rape, starvation and uncountable other war crimes. According to UN estimates, a quarter-million men, women, and children could die from the military assault alone should the US-backed coalition continue its invasion of Hodeida. Saudi warplanes have already bombed school buses with children and buses of refugees fleeing the airstrikes, killing hundreds.

Mr. President Sanchez, you must be aware of this abysmal situation and crime that your 400 guided missiles would worsen – more bloodshed, more suffering, more children killed? – Aren’t you?

And if you are, Mr. President, don’t you think that the humanitarian gesture that you first intended, not selling these bombs to the Saudis – would by far outweigh the unemployment of 6000 shipyard workers? – An unemployment that your government could easily resolve, if not on a regular, then on an exceptional basis for the exceptional cause of avoiding more killing and more suffering, or what the UN describes as an outright genocide.

But there may be more at stake than meets the eye. Despite some fierce opposition, the US Congress has again voted for unquestioned support for Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen. Foreign Secretary Pompeo has made it clear that he expects allied nations, especially NATO nations, of which Spain is one, to follow the US lead in supporting the Saudi-led hostility against a nation already eviscerated, for all practical purposes.

Was this perhaps understood as a threat of US sanctions, in case you disobey this tacit order, Mr. President?

Dear Mr. Sanchez, you would have a brilliant and simple legal reason for NOT selling these deadly and destructive weapons, missiles and warships, to the Saudis. The Spanish Constitution, like the Constitutions of most European countries, prohibits selling weapons to countries “when there are indications that these weapons could be used against inherent human dignity”.In addition, the common position of the EU recommends and insists that her members refrain from selling arms when there is a risk that they are used to violate Human Rights.

Of course, any EU law or regulation is easily overruled by the Masters from Washington. That’s why it takes guts – and a more – for a President, a socialist and humanitarian at heart, one who in his first 100 days in office has already done a lot of good at home, by undoing some of the disastrous social laws of his conservative predecessor, who was forced out of office in the midst of modern Spain’s scandal of worst corruption – hence, for you Mr. President, to resist the pressure form outside as well as from within – would be sending an important message of moral and ethics to the world.

Mr. Sanchez, you would be a hero, not only for Spain and the Spanish shipyard workers, who would most certainly applaud you, but for the entire world. You would demonstrate that your ethics cannot be compromised by money or political pressure. This would, indeed, be a novelty for our neoliberal western world.

And your personal benefit, Mr. Sanchez: You could again sleep at night.

*

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a water resources and environmental specialist. He worked for over 30 years with the World Bank and the World Health Organization around the world in the fields of environment and water. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research; ICH; RT; Sputnik; PressTV; The 21st Century; TeleSUR; The Vineyard of The Saker Blog, the New Eastern Outlook (NEO); and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance

US, UK, Saudis, and UAE Want Yemenis to Starve

September 16th, 2018 by Stephen Lendman

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Famine stalks Yemen because of US/UK supported bombing raids coupled with a naval blockade – ignoring the laws of war. 

On Thursday, UN humanitarian official in Yemen Lise Grande said war in the country continues taking an “incalculable human” toll, adding:

Conditions “deteriorated dramatically in (recent) days. Families are absolutely terrified by” endless terror-bombing and shelling, countless numbers losing the struggle to survive daily.

On Friday, AP News reported that starving Yemenis in parts of the country are eating “leaves of a local vine, boiled into a sour, acidic green paste” – providing stomach filler but little else.

Yemen’s Aslam district health facilities are overwhelmed with starving, emaciated adults and children, including “(e)xcruciatingly thin toddlers (with) eyes bulging,” suffering from endless war, trauma, lack of food, and other essentials to life and well-being.

The same is true in many other communities throughout the country, devastated by endless US/UK orchestrated, Saudi-led aggression and blockade.

Countless numbers of Yemenis are extremely malnourished, starving.

After three-and-a-half years of endless war, thousands of Yemenis perished, no one keeping count of the mortality rate.

UN figures willfully distort and understate the human toll, worsening daily with no prospect for conflict resolution.

An unnamed mother spoke for countless others, saying she has no money to buy food, medicines or anything else for her children.

Availability of essentials to life in many parts of the country is woefully inadequate or nonexistent.

According to Yemeni health official Mekkiya Mahdi,

“(w)e are in the 21st century, but this is what the war did to us.”

In numerous villages and surrounding areas in parts of the country, most everyone is living off leaf paste, she said, adding “I go home, and I can’t put food in” the mouths of my family or myself.

Countless numbers of Yemenis are dying daily from war, related violence, untreated diseases, and starvation. Hundreds of thousands more are close to perishing. Millions may die if war continues for years.

The Trump regime and its imperial partners oppose conflict resolution while falsely claiming otherwise.

On Tuesday, Mike Pompeo deceived Congress, claiming the Saudi and UAE regimes “are undertaking demonstrable actions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure” – a bald-faced lie.

On Wednesday, a Pompeo press statement turned truth on its head, claiming the Trump regime considers “ending the conflict in Yemen…a national security priority,” adding:

The US is “work(ing) closely with the Saudi-led coalition to ensure Saudi Arabia and the UAE maintain support for UN-led efforts to end the civil war in Yemen, allow unimpeded access for the delivery of commercial and humanitarian support through as many avenues as possible, and undertake actions that mitigate the impact of the conflict on civilians and civilian infrastructure.”

Fact: Cold hard reality is polar opposite Pompeo’s willful Big Lie.

His spokeswoman Heather Nauert compounded the deception, saying the Trump regime is “implementing measures to protect civilians in Yemen” – they don’t give a damn about in the country or anywhere else.

Trump and UK regime hardliners are facilitating daily slaughter, starvation, and overall deprivation, supporting endless aggression and genocide, opposing diplomatic conflict resolution.

On Friday, Supreme Revolutionary Committee of Yemen chairman Mohammed Ali al-Houthi said Saudi and UAE warplanes intend attacking food storage facilities in Hodeidah, falsely claiming they’re used to store weapons.

The port city is the country’s main entry and distribution point for food, medical supplies, fuel, and other essentials to life.

On Wednesday, UNICEF said millions of Yemeni children are gravely harmed by severe malnutrition, starvation, lack of medical care, and displacement.

Its Yemen representative Meritxell Relano called the country “a living hell for its children.”

“(E)very year in (the country), 66,000 children under age five are dying of preventable diseases (alone)…(h)alf of them (perishing) during birth or in the first month of life (from) diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition related causes.”

Conditions are “catastrophic.” The lives and welfare of millions of Yemenis hang in the balance, countless numbers losing the struggle to survive, enduring extreme pain and suffering most people can’t imagine.

Yemen is ground zero for opposition to peace and indifference to human lives and welfare by the Trump regime and its imperial partners in high crimes.

Other US-led wars of aggression are just as contemptuous of rule of law principles and human life.

No nation more grievously violates the high-minded standards it professes to honor and respect than America.

Under Republicans and undemocratic Dems, it’s a ruthlessly vicious rogue state, exceeding the worst high crimes of all others.

It’s responsible for millions of deaths post-9/11 alone, accountability not forthcoming because the UN and world community do nothing to demand it.

*

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected].

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

What Is the Left in Canada?

September 16th, 2018 by Kim Petersen

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A claim to righteousness in international affairs is fundamental to Canadian exceptionalism, the idea that this country is morally superior to other nations. — Yves Engler [1]

In early August of this year, the Canadian minister of foreign affairs, Chrystia Freeland, tweeted for Saudi Arabia to release human rights activists. This greatly angered the Sauds who issued a series of sanctions that included selling off Saudi assets in Canada, ceasing purchases of Canadian wheat and barley, expelling Canada’s ambassador, suspending all Saudi Arabian Airlines flights to and from Toronto, and ordering Saudi students to leave Canadian schools.

So far Canadian government officials have not responded other than to state Canada will continue to speak out on human rights abuses. That Canada speaks about human rights abuses comes across as rank hypocrisy to some Canadians. Given that Canada exists through a genocide against its Original Peoples; given that Canada is a partner in US imperialist wars; given that Canadian corporations, especially mining corporations, have been exploiting the third world whereby do Canadian officials living in their government greenhouse deign to cast rocks at other houses?

Canada touts itself as a multicultural land that embraces diversity. Canada tends to align itself more so with the Scandinavian welfare-state model rather than the rugged individualism of its neighboring United States. And Canada has a politically represented Left, or what purports to be a Left, in the New Democratic Party (NDP) — even a Communist Party and Marxist-Leninist Party, although neither are electorally successful.

Yves Engler has written Left, Right: Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada (Black Rose Books, 2018) which examines the Left in Canada. I tend to use the term progressivism because it refers to a grouping “that encompasses a wide spectrum of social movements that include environmentalism, labor, agrarianism, anti-poverty, peace, anti-racism, civil rights, women’s rights, animal rights, social justice and political ideologies such as anarchism, communism, socialism, social democracy, and liberalism.” The term the Left points to a bipolar split rather than a spectrum. Nonetheless, progressivism and the Left are referring toward a similar orientation.

In Left, Right Engler examines the NDP (and its earlier incarceration as the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation or CCF), the labor movement, leftist institutions, and leftist personalities (and other actors) for just how leftist or left-leaning they actually are. If one self-identifies as Left, then its seems perfectly reasonable that one should adhere to leftist principles. Actions will define a social/political orientation with greater clarity than words (which are also important). To belong to a party deemed leftist which then pursues right-wing policies presents a contradiction — and in the worst case, exposes one to criticism for hypocrisy.

Engler critiques the CCF/NDP for its militarist support, lack of compassion for foreign workers, and moral corruption of its leaders. For instance, NDP stalwart “Stephen Lewis was stridently anti-Palestinian,” writes Engler. (p 31) Ex-federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair was a front-and-center Zionist. Engler notes that another ex-federal NDP leader Jack Layton was passionate about the role of Canada’s military in Afghanistan. (p 35)

Engler asks,

Has the desire of some in the NDP to replace the Liberals as the slightly leftist alternative to the Conservatives caused the party to move so far to the right that it agrees with Canada being a partner in enforcing imperialism? If so, what sort of home does it offer to those who oppose US Empire and all forms of imperialism? (p 48)

This reviewer does not consider any major Canadian party to be Left. The Conservatives are staunchly neoliberal. Ditto for the Liberals (just a bite less to the Right than the Conservatives). The NDP also are a Right of Center party. Their lack of internationalism, support for militarism, racism among leaders, etc locate them at a great distance from leftist principles. At best the NDP are faux-Left.

The labor movement has also seen jingoism, militarism, racism among labor leaders, anti-communism, and a lack of solidarity (a sine qua nonfor the dignity of labor).

Engler writes that the Right has caught the ear of many labor leaders. (p 86-94)

Even “left-wing” think tanks bend to the Right, as do “leftist” critics. Engler notes that the Rideau Institute’s support for “peace-keeping” plays into mythologizing Canada as a peaceful kingdom while aligning with military objectives. (p 99)

As far as I can tell, major Canadian peacekeeping missions have always received support from Washington. Ignoring the power politics often driving peacekeeping missions has resulted in (unwitting) support for western imperialism. (p 100)

The author dispels the obfuscation of corporate/state media and its purveyors to cut through disinformation that has captured some of the “leftist” imagination. Engler shreds the role of a good Canada historically and more contemporaneously, among others, in supporting Zionism, the US-France-Canada orchestrated coup in Haiti, as well as the lauded (nauseatingly by corporate/state media) Canadian general Roméo Dallaire who twisted the genocide in Rwanda. Dallaire is a strong proponent of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, a cover for western imperialism. (p 176)

Even among Original Peoples — traditionally considered, in at least a societal sense as leftist [2] — have seen their “leaders” support militarism, colonialism, imperialism, corporate plunder, and environmental degradation. Engler says an online search will reveal the Assembly of First Nations insouciance about how Canadian policy impacts on rest of the world. (p 179) The Assembly of First Nations is, however, problematic insofar being viewed as a legitimate representative of Original Peoples. (p 192) [3]

The Left treads a slippery slope when it agrees with or takes up right-wing causes such as militarism, acquiescing when environmental destruction is at stake, and failure to support solidarity networks outside Canada. Engler broaches the antidote which is genius in its simplicity and obviousness: the Do No Harm principle backed by the Golden Rule.

Yet contrariwise Engler opines, “Canadian soldiers have only fought in one morally justifiable war: World War II.” (p 52) No explanation is proffered by the author for this opinion. One wonders how the Do No Harm principle was satisfied by Canadians fighting overseas? Also Engler’s contention of a morally justifiable [4] war is challengeable, and it is challenged by history professor Jacques Pauwels in his book The Myth of the Good War. [5]

Engler writes in a very readable style, and his work is solidly backed by sourcing. Most saliently, his work has a moral core. Left, Right is important and valuable in that it does not only illustrate and lament the corruption of leftist principles, but it also provides solutions about how leftist principles can be upheld; pushing the Left leftwards.

Read Left, Right and find out about how the NDP can be made relevant on the Left, about how to increase public awareness, and about how to grow the leftist movement.

*

Kim Petersen is an independent writer. He can be reached at: [email protected]. Twitter: @kimpetersen. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Notes

  1. Left, Right: Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada (Black Rose Books, 2018): 151.
  2. This was anathema for colonialism and its capitalist ideology. “The communal–they [colonialists who decided that “the Indians were to be individualized and completely Americanized” (p 3)] called them ‘communistic’–patterns of the Indians were an affront to their sensibilities. Unless the Indian could be trained to be selfish, they felt there was little hope of civilizing and assimilating them.” In Francis Paul Prucha (ed), Americanizing the American Indians (Harvard University Press, 1973): 8.
  3. Something pointed out by Indigenous warrior Splitting the Sky: “The Assembly of First Nations is a neo-colonial elected system and their Chiefs are dependent on federal funds, therefore they are considered as collaborators of a foreign power.” In Splitting the Sky with She Keeps the Door, From Attica to Gustafsen Lake (Chase, BC: John Boncore Hill, 2001): 84. Review
  4. The language is slippery here because Engler does not state that WWII was morally justified, just indicating that moral justifications could be made. But is that not true for almost any war? And do not the war-initiating nations invariably purport some sort of moral rationale to justify aggression?
  5. E.g., US motivations during WWII were based on corporate interests: “… the US power elite is motivated first and foremost by economic interests, by business interests… (p 240; see also p 29-41); not on fighting fascism as GIs “first became acquainted with fascist (or at least quasi-fascist) practices, in the form of petty mistreatments and humiliations…. The American soldiers had not wanted this war, and they did not fight for the beautiful ideas of freedom, justice, and democracy; they fought to survive, to win the war in order to end it, in order to be able to leave the army, in order to be able to go home.” (p 22) In Jacques R. Pauwels, The Myth of the Good War(Toronto: Lorimer, 2015).

It seems quite daunting, what the Palestinians are facing, but like Dr. Swee Ang who was with us and who was a long time Palestinian supporter, and who has seen the Sabra-Shatilla massacres – is a witness to the massacres in that community – she said she was inspired by the Palestinians, their resilience, how they were able to continue on in the face of all sorts of murderous oppression.”

– Larry Commodore, from this week’s interview. (transcript below)

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

Click to download the audio (MP3 format)

The ongoing subjugation of the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation continues to take its humanitarian toll.

According to the most recently published report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, restrictions on goods entering and leaving the Gaza Strip have contributed to the devastation of Gaza’s economy with the unemployment rate in the second quarter of 2018 standing at an unprecedented and staggering 53.7 per cent. Israeli reprisals against the demonstrators at the border fence with Israel since March 30 have resulted in the deaths of 179 Palestinians and injuries to over 18,000 others.

Gaza’s devastated electricity grid has been cut up to 20 hours a day. Funds for the UN emergency fuel program, mainly intended to power back-up generators has run out as of the end of August, leaving hospitals without the service support, and severely compromising other critical health centres and sanitation facilities.

In the occupied West Bank, Israel is expanding its settlements. In August, an Israeli Defense committee approved the construction of over 1000 settlement homes. According to the Israeli NGO Peace Now, 96 per cent of these settlements approvals “are in isolated settlements that Israel will likely need to evacuate within the framework of a two-state agreement”. In 2017, the Netanyahu government advanced plans to build 6,742 settlement homes compared to 2,629 the previous year. As of the end of August, plans were advanced for the construction of 3,794 more units.[1]

All of this in spite of a near consensus of opinion within the international community, including the United Nations Security Council and the International Criminal Court that the settlement enterprise is illegal. [2]

The Global Research News Hour radio program concentrates its focus this week on Israel’s role in exacerbating the ongoing crisis in the occupied territories, and the failure of the international community to hold this Middle East power to account.

Our first guest, Suha Jarrar, elaborates on the crisis in Gaza with a special emphasis on the additional impact of climate change and how Israel’s settler colonial project interferes with Palestinians’ ability to adapt.

Our next guest, Larry Commodore speaks about his experiences on board the Freedom Flotilla boat Al Awda which was intercepted by Israeli forces in July while attempting to peacefully breach the Gaza blockade to bring aid to the people of Gaza.

Finally, Dmitri Lascaris breaks down Canadian culpability in aiding and abetting Israeli violation of international law.

Suha Jarrar is a Palestinian human rights researcher and advocate, and currently the Environmental and Gender Policy Researcher at Al-Haq human rights organization in Ramallah, Palestine. Suha obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in environmental and gender studies from Trent University in Canada, and her Master of Science in Climate Change Science and Policy from the University of Sussex. Suha’s M.Sc. research focused on climate change adaptation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Larry Commodore is a long-time indigenous rights activist and former elected chief of the Soowahlie community of the Stó:lō Nation, near Vancouver.

Dmitri Lascaris is a Canadian lawyer, journalist and activist. In 2012, Dimitri was named by Canadian Lawyer Magazine as one of Canada’s 25 most influential lawyers. He is a correspondent and board member of The Real News Network and a board member of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East.

Transcript – Interview with Larry Commodore, September 13, 2018

Global Research: This past summer, activists from countries around the world, including Canada, took part in the 2018 Freedom Flotilla, a peaceful, non-violent action aimed at breaking Israel’s blockade of Gaza and bringing vital supplies to Palestinians on the territory. On July 29th, the Flotilla ship Al Awda was intercepted and boarded by Israeli soldiers. The passengers and crew would report being assaulted, threatened and detained, and their cargo and personal effects stolen. |They would remain in detention for four days.

One of the passengers was Larry Commodore, a long time Indigenous rights activist, and former elected chief of the Soowahlie community of the Stó:lō Nation, near Vancouver. Larry cited the similarities between his experiences as a First Nations man in the Canadian settler-State, and the realities of Palestinians under occupation as a motivation for his involvement in Palestinian solidarity activism. He joined us by phone from the Soowahlie community where he lives, to tell us what he witnessed and experienced during the ordeal.

Larry Commodore: Well again, we were stuck in … The night before we were actually singing and …having a good time together, and we knew that they were gonna – they will be coming down on us. We talked a bit about what jail would be like and that and so forth.

When it started coming down the next day, I was, uh, I was by the wheelhouse. I listened to the radio communication with the Israeli navy. They were calling us that uh, that we were a threat to the Israelis’ security and that – they were telling us to turn around. And we told them that we were in international waters, that we had no intention of going to Israelis’ waters, and that we had the right to … seek passage.

We went back and forth for I don’t know how long, half an hour or so. At some point the captain of our boat, Herman Reksten, advised that (we should) be prepared for an attack (from the) Israelis. So I went down deck and alerted everybody that – to get ready! The Israelis are coming! Go in the bathroom! Get something to eat! Do whatever you have to do to get ready!

The Israeli commandos boarded quite quickly. I was surprised at that, how quickly they were able to board and start attacking our people at the – that were at the wheelhouse…

GR: Could you talk about their use of force against the crew and the passengers?

LC: Yeah, that’s what got me going there, because as I say, I didn’t have a good view but I did see some of them knocking our guys onto the deck there – the commandos were – and that got me quite upset then. As I say, I didn’t have a good view, but any fear that I had now was washed away by the anger, because I heard yelling and screaming going on. So I was quite angry at what was transpiring. Again, I didn’t have a good view of what exactly was going on. And I didn’t find out until later on what exactly happened there because some our folks was tasered, one of our folks had a broken foot there because they started stomping on people’s feet, that were around the wheelhouse too. They uh…

And then they got the captain, Herman Reksten, and they started beating up on him. The boat was stopped at that point, and they wanted the captain to start the boat again. But apparently, it’s a bit of a process to start the boat, and then you have to go down to the engine room…So they brought him – the captain – down to the engine room and got the engineer – told the engineer to start the boat, and the engineer said no. And so they started beating on the captain again and told the engineer (if he doesn’t) start the boat they were going to continue beating the captain. And they even threatened the captain with execution too.

So after that, after the beating of the captain, the engineer started the boat after that.

GR: The ship and its passengers were taken to the Ashdod naval base in Israel after a 6 hour journey. Larry reports that passports, wallets and other personal effects were seized by the soldiers. He said he would not voluntarily leave the Al Awda until those belongings were returned to him.

LC: The last thing I remember…they had me on the deck and they put handcuffs on my hands there…on my back. And then that’s all I remember.

I was told by other shipmates that they had dragged me off – they were quite violently they had dragged me off the ship. That I had a gash on my foot there and there was a lot of blood coming out. But they ended up bringing me to the hospital because of the gash on my foot, and I was unconscious when they brought me to the hospital, and uh, I came to because they were stitching up my foot there and it was painful. And I came to, I didn’t know where I was, I didn’t know how I got there.

I was in a total daze….and then I just went unconscious again, and when I came to, I was in Givon prison, and it’s a bit of a blur there, I don’t remember much of the hours at Givon.

GR: While in detention, Larry would discover that his bladder had been injured during the melee leaving him unable to urinate. The discomfort was sufficiently intense that he indicated he was in no condition to take part in a proceeding in front of an immigration judge, nor was he able to travel back to Canada. After two days, officials relented and sent him to a hospital. However, the guard escorting |him seemed insensitive to his plight.

LC: The head guard that they got me to the hospital, he didn’t believe that I had a bladder problem at all. So at the hospital, he was forcing me to drink more water. He forced me to drink about eight glasses of water. Then he got me to the bathroom. Told me to urinate….and I couldn’t urinate, he was standing right behind me at the time too…Again, I couldn’t urinate, and then I told him that…(said) you’re playing games with me. And then he got me to drink more water, and I still wasn’t able to urinate. So he kind of gave up on that – the guard kind of gave up on that and he got me back into the hospital again. And then after a while the doctor came and realized that there was a problem, and he put a catheter on me and I was able to pass fluid after that.

GR: Mmm…

LC: And uh, I was brought back to the hosp – uh, to prison. I was – leg shackles on. When they were bringing me to the hospital I had leg shackles on, and the guard kept yelling at me: “Walk faster! Walk faster!” even though |I wasn’t able to walk very fast. And I was also carrying a urine bag too.

GR: Larry got deported from Israel the day after his hospital visit. He saw doctors in Toronto and was returned to his home on the West Coast of Canada. After three weeks of bed rest he reports an almost complete recovery from his ordeal.

Have you approached the Canadian government? What are they saying about these actions taken by the Israeli forces against you?

LC: Yeah, well, it’s uh, I did have a meeting with the Canadian consulate when I was in Israel, and again I was really kind of blurry then too, I still wasn’t in very good shape. And uh, I don’t think…before I realized that (I had) the bladder issues too, when I seen a consulate.

They wouldn’t seem helpful at all. They just seemed that they’d go with the Israeli line that I was being a threat to the Israeli security, and uh, and thenvthey gave me a phone number for them, and uh, because we have access to a phone, didn’t do me any good…I wasn’t too impressed with them at all.

It seems quite daunting, what the Palestinians are facing, but like Dr. Swee Ang who was with us and who was a long time Palestinian supporter, and who has seen the Sabra-Shatilla massacres – is a witness to the massacres in that community – she said she was inspired by the Palestinians, their resilience, how they were able to continue on in the face of all sorts of murderous oppression.

And that’s what inspires me, is the Palestinians themselves, how they are able to continue on…As I say, the reason I was there was to – thought it was my duty to be challenging the oppressor, and I think that should be everybody’s duty – every decent person, every person of conscience it should be their duty to stand up to challenge Israel and the way they – their murderous oppression that really is inflicted …on the Palestinians in Gaza in particular… We just have to create a better world for everybody.

-end of transcript-

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

Click to download the audio (MP3 format)

The Global Research News Hour airs every Friday at 1pm CT on CKUW 95.9FM in Winnipeg. The programme is also podcast at globalresearch.ca . Excerpts of the show have begun airing on Rabble Radio and appear as podcasts at rabble.ca.

The Global Research News Hour now airs Fridays at 6pm PST, 8pm CST and 9pm EST on Alternative Current Radio (alternativecurrentradio.com)

Community Radio Stations carrying the Global Research News Hour:

CHLY 101.7fm in Nanaimo, B.C – Thursdays at 1pm PT

Boston College Radio WZBC 90.3FM NEWTONS  during the Truth and Justice Radio Programming slot -Sundays at 7am ET.

Port Perry Radio in Port Perry, Ontario –1  Thursdays at 1pm ET

Burnaby Radio Station CJSF out of Simon Fraser University. 90.1FM to most of Greater Vancouver, from Langley to Point Grey and from the North Shore to the US Border.

It is also available on 93.9 FM cable in the communities of SFU, Burnaby, New Westminister, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Surrey and Delta, in British Columbia, Canada. – Tune in  at its new time – Wednesdays at 4pm PT.

Radio station CFUV 101.9FM based at the University of Victoria airs the Global Research News Hour every Sunday from 7 to 8am PT.

CORTES COMMUNITY RADIO CKTZ  89.5 out of Manson’s Landing, B.C airs the show Tuesday mornings at 10am Pacific time.

Cowichan Valley Community Radio CICV 98.7 FM serving the Cowichan Lake area of Vancouver Island, BC airs the program Thursdays at 6am pacific time.

Campus and community radio CFMH 107.3fm in  Saint John, N.B. airs the Global Research News Hour Fridays at 10am.

Caper Radio CJBU 107.3FM in Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia airs the Global Research News Hour starting Wednesday Morning from 8:00 to 9:00am. Find more details at www.caperradio.ca

RIOT RADIO, the visual radio station based out of Durham College in Oshawa, Ontario has begun airing the Global Research News Hour on an occasional basis. Tune in at dcstudentsinc.ca/services/riot-radio/

Radio Fanshawe: Fanshawe’s 106.9 The X (CIXX-FM) out of London, Ontario airs the Global Research News Hour Sundays at 6am with an encore at 4pm.

Los Angeles, California based Thepowerofvoices.com airs the Global Research News Hour every Monday from 6-7pm Pacific time. 

Notes:

  1. https://twitter.com/peacenowisrael/status/1032307745083535360/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1032307745083535360&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.aljazeera.com%2Fnews%2F2018%2F08%2Fisrael-approves-plans-1000-settlement-homes-180822162800080.html
  2. https://imeu.org/article/israel-international-law-settlements

First published by GR on June 11, 2018

Emerging market economies are heading for an economic implosion. From South America to South Asia conditions are deteriorating rapidly and heading for an even more severe economic crisis in which many are already mired. At the head of this list is Brazil and Argentina. Others increasingly fragile, however, include Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, and even India, which has covered up its weak economic condition, and massive non-performing bank loan problem, by manipulating its GDP to falsely exaggerate its growth rate.

Business pundits, and even some commentators on the ‘left’, argue that emerging market economies, of which all the above are key members, now account for more than half of the world’s GDP. This suggests their vulnerability to US and G7 economies is less than it has been in the past. The so-called advanced economies–i.e. the USA, Japan, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy (the ‘G7–are increasingly irrelevant. But global GDP numbers are manipulated everywhere to show a stronger growth than actually has been occurring. Overnight, economies like India double their GDP numbers by redefining categories that compose their Gross Domestic Product, GDP, by manipulating price estimations that boost real GDP and by introducing statistical assumptions in their estimation of growth that are gross misrepresentations. GDP is thus not a good indicator of the condition of their economies. Even so, global GDP itself is now slowing this past year, as global trade also slows (even before USA precipitated ‘trade wars’ take effect). But this idea of declining vulnerability of economies like Brazil and Argentina is incorrect.

GDP numbers obscure the still significant vulnerability of emerging market economies (EMEs) to the advanced economies and their policy actions, especially the USA. This is true for even the largest EME’s like Brazil, Argentina, Turkey, Indonesia, India and others. More symptomatic economic indicators of the growing crisis in EMEs are their currency declines, money capital outflows, rising domestic interest rates, and rising import cost inflation.

USA Levers of Economic Power: Currency, Credit Access & Central Bank Rates

While the EME’s share of global GDP has risen in recent decades, the world economy is nevertheless still largely manipulated by the USA and other G7 economies. That manipulation is exercised by the USA in particular by several means: through its dominant currency, the US dollar; by control of the flow of much of global credit (and debt) by US banks and US shadow banks through capital markets; and by the influence of the US central bank, the Federal Reserve, over US interest rates and, in turn, rates by other central banks and banks elsewhere.

Recessions and crises in the EMEs are largely the consequence of USA policy shifts involving US interest rates, US dollar appreciation or depreciation, global crude oil price speculation that follow the dollar, or lending by US banks and US shadow banks (i.e. investment banks, hedge funds, private equity firms, etc.,) in what are called ‘capital (corporate debt) markets’ that function as alternative sources of credit from traditional bank loans.

In 2017 all these US policy levers began to shift to the disadvantage of emerging markets. That shift is accelerating in 2018. The result has been ‘made in the USA’ deepening recessions in the EMEs, collapse of their currencies, capital outflow from EMEs back to the USA and G7, accelerating EME domestic inflation, and increasing political unrest and instability.

Therefore, not GDP, but a more telling initial indicator of the growing fragility in emerging economies is the recent freefall of their currencies in relation to the US dollar, Euros, and Japanese Yen, as well as the capital flight from these countries that occurs in tandem with the collapse of their currencies. These in turn become the key drivers of EME domestic recession, mass unemployment, inflation, goods shortages, and growing political instability.

And at the head of the list of economies with currency instability today in South America are Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela. But the same process is emerging rapidly elsewhere in the EMEs, in Turkey, Indonesia. Malaysia, and perhaps next even India. But no region of the global economy more strongly reflects the crisis today than Brazil and Argentina.

Destabilizing Argentina and Brazil

Argentina’s currency, the Peso, has fallen around 25% since the beginning of 2018. Turkey, Brazil and others are also falling at double digit rates in recent months. With the collapse of their currency, the value of investments held by capitalists in these countries–foreign and domestic alike–also fall in value. To protect the value of investors’ assets from collapsing with their currency (i.e. stocks, bonds, real estate, foreign currency holdings, derivatives, etc.) their governments (legislatures and central banks) respond by raising interest rates in their own economies, in the desperate attempt to stem the capital outflow set off by currency collapse. Investors’ investment values are propped up by raising domestic interest rates. But the the contradiction is that higher interest rates depress the real economy, throwing it into recession; or if recession already exists, into yet deeper recession and even depression. But investors don’t care about recession; they care foremost about protecting the value of their investments. Thus the pro-business, pro-investor EME governments opt for higher rates and accept mass unemployment as a cost.

EME currency collapse has another economic consequence. Since most of these countries import much of their basic goods (food, medical supplies, oil, raw materials for manufacturing, consumer goods, etc.), the collapsing currencies also raise inflation on these goods due to rising import costs. Thus stagnating and then declining real economy and mass unemployment is accompanied by rising prices. More workers are laid off because of the slowing economy, while the prices they must pay for basic goods and services simultaneously rise as well.

Argentina and Brazil are especially exposed to this scenario of US rising interest rates and dollar that precipitates collapse of their currencies, capital flight, rate hikes, mass unemployment and inflation.

Since the 2008 global crash they have borrowed heavily–especially in US dollars. The massive trillions of dollars of debt they accumulated since 2008 must be repaid in dollars. To get dollars they must export and sell more goods. But the slowing of global trade and other developments in China, Europe and China has reduced their ability to export more. They can’t raise sufficient dollars with which to pay their US dollar denominated debt (to US banks and shadow banks). In order to continue to pay their foreign debt principal and interest coming due (to US and G7 bankers) they are forced to borrow dollars from the International Monetary Fund, IMF–another key economic institution controlled by the US and G7.

Argentina recently borrowed another $50 billion from the IMF–to pay its debt to USA and G7 bankers. However, this doesn’t solve its problem. It only shifts debt payments from private bankers to the the IMF. The IMF never ‘bails out’ countries; it always bails out bankers that have loaned to these countries when the latter cannot make payments to their bankers (and bond investors, etc.).

While Argentina has turned to the IMF to temporarily buy time as its crisis deepens, Brazil has gone another route to deal with its ‘made in the USA’ crisis that has been ripening since 2015. It has borrowed even more from US bankers. And it has chosen to raise its interest rates to astronomical levels, in the vain hope of propping up the value of its currency will stem its capital outflow (and encourage continuing capital inflow to Brazil from USA and G7 investors as well).

Brazil’s central bank interest rate is currently around 40%–up from around 14% just a few years ago. That means businesses or consumers have to pay 40% on any loan or debt their incur to stay in business or maintain consumption levels. Interest rates that high virtually shut down wide areas of an economy. And that’s what’s been happening in Brazil. Mass unemployment has followed. As has accelerating inflation and cost of living as Brazil’s currency, the Real, has collapsed in relation to the dollar. Understandably, political unrest follows as jobless grows and prices for basic goods accelerate. That too is now underway.

Brazil’s crisis began in 2015. At that time its central bank interest rates were, as noted, around 14%. Since 2015 they have risen to the 40%. More than half of that acceleration has occurred in just the past year, and especially in 2018. But those 40% rates, and the unemployment and inflation, are the result currency collapse and capital flight–which in turn is a process that has its origins in the USA and rising US interest rates and dollar appreciation.

The error of the Brazilian Workers Party while still in government, led by Lula and then Rouseff, was to allow Brazil’s central bank to steadily raise interest rates since 2015 to current levels. Central banks are always controlled by the private bankers. And private bankers in EMEs like Brazil are dominated by US bankers and investors. And EME central bankers are in turn controlled by their domestic banking interests.
Furthermore, capitalists everywhere have cleverly engineered their central bank institutions to ensure the central banks are shielded from popular national legislatures, just in case popular democratic movements (like the Workers Party) democratically assume power over national governments. Political power remains shielded from economic power. Capitalists have many ways to sabotage democratically elected governments. Central bank interest rates are but one tool.

The Political Strategy Element

Image result for Central Bankers at the End of Their Ropes

The Workers Party in Brazil should therefore have democratized (nationalized in the public interest and fundamentally restructured) the Brazilian central bank back in 2015-16, by opening its decision making process to include democratic forces and representatives. (For my view of how central banks can, and must, be democratized see the concluding chapter to my book, ‘Central Bankers at the End of Their Ropes’, Clarity Press, 2017).

In Argentina, the Kirchner government for years refused to repay the US hedge funds their billions of dollars in claims from the earlier debt crisis engineered by them. What it should have done was to pay the hedge funds in special issued and printed Argentine pesos, instead of dollars, and told them to get lost, they’ve been paid. Instead it fought them in global courts dominated by the US and G7.

As the Brazilian economy began to weaken after 2016, and conditions worsen, the USA, allied with domestic Brazil capitalists and pro-Business politicians in Brazil, developed a political strategy to accompany the US interest rate-dollar policies designed to undermine Brazil’s currency and destabilize its economy. This was the so-called ‘political corruption’ offensive, engineered in the USA and implemented in coordination with Brazilian business interests and pro-business political parties. By painting Workers Party leaders–Rouseff and then Lula himself–as corrupt, they drove them from office (or in the case of Lula jailed him to prevent him from running). An unapologetic pro-Business/pro-USA Temer government was put in place. A similar ‘political’ strategy was implemented against the Kirchner government in Argentina, to drive it from office and replace it with the current pro-business Macri government. Temer in Brazil and Macri in Argentina are mirror images of the USA-G7 economic-political strategy to remove populist governments in South America and replace them with pro-USA, pro investor governments.

The Special Case of Venezuela: When All Else Fails… Military Action

Destroy the currency is always at the forefront of USA imperialist strategy to drive out populist, democratic governments and re-install pro-Business, pro-US investor governments. USA policy toward Venezuela today is not dissimilar, and represents an extreme version of what has been rolled out in Brazil and Argentina. The USA embarked several years ago to destroy Venezuela’s currency, shut off access to US dollars with which to purchase needed food, medical and other imports, while launching another version of ‘government leaders are corrupt’ political-public opinion offensive. It has supported and financed domestic political opposition forces and parties to the Maduro government. Now it is talking about the final extreme alternative of military intervention. It is lining up other right wing governments in Latin America to take the lead in intervention if necessary. But the USA will plan, direct and finance the costs of military intervention using its proxies, if it comes to that. Recent elections in Venezuela that returned the Maduro government to office have signaled to Washington that the Brazil-Argentina strategy might not work in Venezuela. Thus the consideration of more direct military intervention is now on Washington’s agenda. Trump has as much as said so publicly.

But the USA’s strategies of economic destabilization by, initially, raising interest rates to generate capital flight and currency collapse, to have central banks escalate domestic interest rates in the countries to precipitate mass unemployment and recession, to cause accelerating import goods inflation of critical items–and to engage in ‘leaders are corrupt’ political offensives to depose democratically elected popular governments–may not prove successful in the longer term.

Resistance is Not Futile

Already democratic movements, unions, strike actions, mass demonstrations are emerging in Brazil and Argentina. And Venezuela holds out despite the desperate destruction of its economy by USA-business interests. Elections are set soon in Brazil. The results will be critical. What the USA-Temer government’s next moves might be are critical. How Brazil goes, so too will go Argentina, giving rise to further popular demonstrations and strikes should elections in Brazil throw out the Temer government. And should both countries restore democratic governments, USA policy toward direct intervention in Venezuela will stall temporarily.

But whatever the political outcomes, the more fundamental economic forces will still prevail: South American popular governments must find a way to prevent their central banks from acting ‘independently’ on behalf of pro-business, pro-US investors, interests; they must find a way to stabilize their currencies not based on the US dollar; and they must not fall into the debt trap offered by the IMF. Until these levers of US-G7 economic power and hegemony are eliminated, emerging market economics like Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela will always be susceptible and at the mercy of USA economic hegemony.

*

This article was originally published on Jack Rasmus’s Website.

Jack Rasmus is author of the recently published ‘Central Bankers at the End of Their Ropes: Monetary Policy and the Coming Depression’, Clarity Press, August 2017; ‘Looting Greece: A New Financial Imperialism Emerges’, Clarity Press, October 2016; and ‘Systemic Fragility in the Global Economy’, Clarity Press, January 2016. His website is: http://www.kyklosproductions.com and twitter handle, @drjackrasmus. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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First published  by GR on May 13, 2015

The media has taken an increasing interest in the 28 pages that were redacted from the 9/11 Joint Congressional Inquiry Report. The stories usually feature one of the Inquiry’s leaders, former Senator Bob Graham, who has claimed that the missing pages point to involvement of the government of Saudi Arabia. Although Saudi complicity is in no way surprising, facts that are often overlooked suggest that Graham’s actions may not be entirely straightforward. This leads independent researchers to raise concerns about his intentions and those concerns are justified.

Graham 2To begin with, Graham never calls for release of other documents collected by the government’s 9/11 investigators, most of which are still held secret. That includes the majority of 9/11 Commission documents, of which only a fraction have been released—with much of the content redacted. The release of Commission documents is hindered by claims that they are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) because they are congressional records. Nonetheless, the public deserves to see documents that might answer critical questions.

Moreover, Graham shows no interest in the many alarming facts about 9/11 that have been uncovered through released documents and videos. Some things that have been released via FOIA request are far more compelling than claims of Saudi financing. These include numerous testimonies to explosives being used to bring down the World Trade Center (WTC) buildings.

After a lawsuit by 9/11 victims’ families, the oral histories of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) were released in August 2005. At least 23% of those eyewitnesses gave testimony to explosions in the Twin Towers. About 60 FDNY members reported hearing warnings of the unpredictable “collapse” of WTC Building 7.

Still held secret by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are the agency’s computer models on which it based its non-explosive conclusions. In response to a FOIA request, a NIST spokesman declared that revealing the computer models would “jeopardize public safety.” Graham is never heard challenging that absurd justification for withholding critical information, nor has he objected to the fact that NIST conducted an entirely unscientific WTC investigation.

Much of the 9/11 Commission Report was based on torture testimony, the records of which were destroyed by the CIA. Since that time, the government has produced documents stating that the first alleged al Qaeda leader tortured for information was never related to al Qaeda in any way. This means that all of his torture testimony, upon which the 9/11 Commission Report was based, was false. Yet Graham and his supporters say nothing about it.

The U.S. official most responsible for preventing terrorism in the years prior to 9/11 is known to havehelped Osama bin Laden evade capture at least twice. That same official was a personal friend and representative of the leaders of the United Arab Emirates, a country that Bob Graham’s investigation glossed over despite its many links to 9/11.

According to Jeffrey St. Clair of Counterpunch, Tommy Boggs may have been behind the redaction of the 28 pages from the Joint Inquiry Report. A long-time Washington powerbroker and son of a member of the Warren Commission, Boggs was a public relations consultant for the Saudi royal family. That connection is remarkable given that the Boston Globe reported, in November 1990, that a partner in Boggs’ firm was a director of the Kuwait-American Corporation (KuwAm). As anyone interested in 9/11 knows, KuwAm was the firm that owned and operated Stratesec, the security company for several 9/11-related facilities. There are many reasons why the leaders of KuwAm and Stratesec are central suspects in the crimes of 9/11.

These facts are of no interest to Graham or the mainstream media. For unknown reasons, they only seem interested in uncovering Saudi involvement. Such inexplicable behavior, particularly when it has to do with 9/11, should raise concerns. Little discussed facts about Graham might shed light on the answer to this dilemma.

For example, few people seem to remember that Bob Graham was against an investigation from the start. In November 2001, two months after 9/11, Graham was leading the effort to delay any inquiry into the crimes. His position was “that it would not be appropriate to conduct such an investigation at a time when the government’s focus is on prosecuting the war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.” Three months after 9/11, Graham was still fending off cries for an investigation, stating that it was “still too soon.” Paradoxically, he claimed that it was best to wait until the threat of additional attacks subsided before investigating 9/11. He said that, “Once the possibility of fresh attacks by ‘’sleepers’ already in the United States has diminished, the time will be ripe.”

While Graham was trying to stop an investigation, the Senate voted for one anyway. The compromise was that Graham and his CIA operative protégé, Porter Goss, would run it and that it would have a very limited focus on intelligence agency shortcomings. And although Graham now claims that the Bush Administration covered-up Saudi involvement in 9/11, he and Goss, who had an interesting history together, led an inquiry that covered-up 9/11 in nearly every other sense.

When Graham and Goss announced their inquiry in February 2002, they made it clear that they would not pursue “blame game” attempts with respect to “what went wrong.” The resulting investigation was completely deferential to the intelligence agencies that it was chartered to investigate. Due to an alleged leak, Graham and Goss even supported the FBI’s investigation of their own panel members while the panel was investigating the FBI. As expected, the final Joint Inquiry Report was largely a whitewash.

Another unnoticed fact is that Graham’s calls for release of the 28 pages have matched up, chronologically, with changes in Saudi government leadership. That is, the times when Graham has made noise about the 28 pages have run parallel to the times of uncertainty with regard to the succession of the Saudi monarchy or Saudi strategic partnerships. This suggests that Graham is simply using the redacted section of his report as a control mechanism to bring new Saudi leadership in line with continued U.S. interests.

Although Graham joined others to call for release of the 28 pages in July 2003, perhaps in an attempt to pressure Saudi Arabia to fully support the War on Terror (which it did soon after), he did not continue that effort. In fact, Graham appeared to ignore the issue for the next seven years. In November 2010, the illness of King Abdullah began to stir fears over the succession to the Saudi throne. Just a few months later, Graham released a novel that hinted at unresolved questions about Saudi involvement in 9/11.

In late 2013, the Saudi government announced that King Abdullah was very ill and, in late 2014, his death was said to be imminent. At the same time, the Saudis began forging a new strategic relationship with China, leaving people to wonder if the U.S. was “losing Saudi Arabia to China.” That was when Graham really turned up the heat. He joined a coalition of U.S. congressmen who began resurrecting the issue of the 28 pages with gusto and they began to get a lot of attention from the mainstream media.

The demise of Abdullah ignited conflict among factions within the Saudi power structure. The Saudi king died in late January 2015 and Graham’s new calls for release of the redacted section became increasingly well covered as the new king, Salman, took office. The calls for what Graham says is evidence that Saudi Arabia financed the attacks continue to this day as King Salman demonstrates an as yet unclear position toward the United States.

Overall, there appears to be a correlation between times when Saudi support for the U.S. is perceived as being threatened and times when the media publicizes possible Saudi connections to 9/11. With the rise of King Salman and the growing Chinese-Saudi relationship, new connections have been reported as coming from the imprisoned convict Zacarias Moussaoui as well as through claims about an FBI cover-up of a Saudi family in Sarasota.

Americans should be interested in the release of any information that sheds light on the crimes of 9/11. However, it should always be remembered that Saudi oil is the single most important resource related to U.S. economic stability. Continual U.S. control of the government that holds that resource is, therefore, paramount.

Bob Graham and the media may forget about the missing 28 pages if and when King Salman is sufficiently cowed to U.S. interests and China becomes less threatening as a Saudi strategic partner. But one thing is certain—if the only mainstream coverage of 9/11 questions continues to center on implications of Saudi financing of the attacks, the truth about what really happened will remain solely a matter of independent inquiry.

Kevin Ryan blogs at Dig Within.

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Of relevance to the ongoing currency war, first published in November 2017

One quote that always crosses my mind regarding the decline of the U.S. dollar and the state of geopolitics associated with it, is by Gerald Celente, founder of the Trends Research Institute who said that “When all else fails, they take you to war.” 

As the U.S. dollar continues to lose its status as the world’s premiere reserve currency, the reality of a world war seems inevitable, especially when major countries such as China, Russia and Iran are making strategic moves to bypass the U.S. dollar in favor of other currencies such as China’s ‘Petro-Yuan’. China has made the decision to price oil in their own currency the “Yuan” by a new gold-backed futures contract which will change the dynamics of the world’s economy. China is preparing to launch the petro-Yuan later this year that will eventually threaten the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

At the end of World War II, the international economic system was in shambles, so a plan was devised to create a new economic system. By July 1944, more than 730 delegates arrived at the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference in Bretton Woods, New Hamphire and signed on to the historic Bretton Woods agreements which was a plan to set up a system of rules, regulations that eventually led to the creation of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF’s main purpose was to prevent any temporary imbalances of payments. The framework of the Bretton Woods agreements was to control the value of money between various countries. Each country had to have an established monetary policy that kept the exchange rate of its own currency within a fixed value in terms of gold. By 1971, the U.S. terminated the convertibility of the U.S. dollar to gold (at the time, the fixed rate of gold was at $35 an ounce) ending the Bretton Woods system allowing the U.S. dollar to become a fiat currency which has allowed central banks (especially the Federal Reserve bank) to “print money out of thin air.”

China’s move will have consequences.  For starters, it will certainly undermine Washington’s ability to impose economic sanctions on any nation at will and at the same time, will slowly diminish the purchasing power for U.S. consumers as imports become more expensive.

China (the largest holder of U.S. debt) is the largest importer of oil, while Russia, one of the largest exporters of oil in the world have agreed to use the petro-Yuan to bypass the petro-dollar. The petro-Yuan threatens the U.S. dollar’s hegemony around the globe as several nations have recently demonstrated as they all share an interest in joining the transition from the U.S. dollar to the Yuan for oil transactions including Washington’s arch enemies Iran, Venezuela and even Indonesia (currently not on Washington’s hit list).

The mainstream-media has been reporting on the latest developments concerning China’s plan to bypass the dollar and introduce the petro-Yuan to the international community in an article by CNBC titled ‘China has grand ambitions to dethrone the dollar. It may make a powerful move this year’:

China is looking to make a major move against the dollar’s global dominance, and it may come as early as this year. The new strategy is to enlist the energy markets’ help: Beijing may introduce a new way to price oil in coming months — but unlike the contracts based on the U.S. dollar that currently dominate global markets, this benchmark would use China’s own currency. If there’s widespread adoption, as the Chinese hope, then that will mark a step toward challenging the greenback’s status as the world’s most powerful currency.

China is the world’s top oil importer, and so Beijing sees it as only logical that its own currency should price the global economy’s most important commodity. But beyond that, moving away from the dollar is a strategic priority for countries like China and Russia. Both aim to ultimately reduce their dependency on the greenback, limiting their exposure to U.S. currency risk and the politics of American sanctions regimes

Washington is on a collision course for another war with North Korea with U.S. President Donald Trump leading the charge. With the power of the U.S. dollar on life support, the U.S. empire of debt continues to use the threat of war and in some cases, wage actual wars around the world namely Iran, Syria and Venezuela which have been on Washington’s hit list for some time. Iran and Russia are already slowly transitioning away from the U.S. dollar to avoid any future economic sanctions imposed by Washington. Venezuela is also ready and willing to make its move against the U.S. dollar. Reuters did report on the decision made by the Maduro government to implement a new system of international payments for its oil exports. The report headlined with ‘Venezuela’s Maduro says will shun U.S. dollar in favor of yuan, others’ quoted what Maduro had said during a session of the National Constituent Assembly at Palacio Federal Legislativo in Caracas, Venezuela:

“Venezuela is going to implement a new system of international payments and will create a basket of currencies to free us from the dollar,” Maduro said in an hours-long address to a new legislative superbody, without providing details of the new mechanism. “If they pursue us with the dollar, we’ll use the Russian ruble, the yuan, yen, the Indian rupee, the euro,” Maduro said

Another recent article published by CNBC ‘China will ‘compel’ Saudi Arabia to trade oil in Yuan — and that’s going to affect the US dollar’ interviewed Carl Weinberg a chief economist and a managing director at High Frequency Economics about how the US dollar will lose its global dominance in the near future once Saudi Arabia will be forced to use the petro-Yuan since China is the world’s top importer of oil:

Carl Weinberg, chief economist and managing director, said Beijing stands to become the most dominant global player in oil demand since China usurped the U.S. as the “biggest oil importer on the planet.”

Saudi Arabia has “to pay attention to this because even as much as one or two years from now, Chinese demand will dwarf U.S. demand,” Weinberg said. “I believe that yuan pricing of oil is coming and as soon as the Saudis move to accept it — as the Chinese will compel them to do — then the rest of the oil market will move along with them”

The U.S. dollar is slowly losing its’ status as the world’s reserve currency, so is a war with China a possibility? Would the U.S. attack North Korea as a stern warning to China or would it bring China into the conflict in an attempt to save the U.S. dollar? Saddam Hussein wanted to trade in Euro’s instead of the U.S. dollar for Iraq’s oil exports and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi wanted the Gold Dinar to dethrone the U.S. dollar in the continent of Africa. The decisions made by both Iraq and Libya had consequences that led to their destruction by U.S. and NATO forces. Can the U.S. do the same to China? I highly doubt it since China has a formidable military that can defend itself against any U.S. attack. China is certainly not Iraq nor Libya. So will there be a war against China in the long term? With the U.S. steadily collapsing at a slow pace, Washington would do anything to survive. The U.S. dollar supports the Military-Industrial Complex and its destructive and very expensive adventures around the world.

The launch of the petro-Yuan will accelerate the process in what we can call De-Dollarization. However, there are some people in the mainstream-media that are not convinced that the petro-Yuan will overthrow the U.S. dollar anytime soon, for instance, David Fickling from Bloomberg News recently wrote ‘The Petroyuans time hasn’t come’ said:

Look, for instance, at the most-traded product on the Dalian Commodity Exchange in China, iron ore. While mainland commodity markets have seen febrile activity in recent years, bid-ask spreads are still several times higher than those on major contracts traded in London and New York. That makes trading more costly, volatility higher, and price discovery weaker — and as a major consumer of crude, Beijing ought to be opposed to that sort of change.

There are the producers to consider, too. Most of the Middle East’s oil exporters have currencies that are pegged to the greenback. Switching to yuan pricing would introduce foreign-exchange risk to their budgets for little obvious gain, especially as China generally consumes less than 20 percent of their exports.

That doesn’t mean the planned contract is useless. China will benefit from having a benchmark that’s more appropriate for its own purposes — particularly one that reflects the medium sour grades of crude that are chiefly consumed by local refineries, as opposed to the sweet, light varieties that underpin the main Western contracts.

Just don’t expect it to change the world. While the economic center of gravity has been moving east, oil’s connections to West Texas and the North Sea will remain strong for years to come

James Rickards, the author of ‘Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis’ will most likely disagree with Fickling’s analysis:

Printing dollars at home means higher inflation in China, higher food prices in Egypt and stock bubbles in Brazil. Printing money means that U.S. debt is devalued so foreign creditors get paid back in cheaper dollars. The devaluation means higher unemployment in developing economies as their exports become more expensive for Americans. The resulting inflation also means higher prices for inputs needed in developing economies like copper, corn, oil and wheat. Foreign countries have begun to fight back against U.S.-caused inflation through subsidies, tariffs and capital controls; the currency war is expanding fast

The U.S. dollar is failing because of Washington’s economic and foreign policies and its collusion with the Wall Street banking cartels, multi-national corporations and the Military-Industrial Complex. Max Keiser of The Keiser Report was interviewed on RT News and explained why the world is seeking to move away from the U.S. dollar:

Countries worldwide are tired of funding the America’s “military adventurism by being a party to the ‘Empire of Debt,’ as it’s known around the world – the US dollar,” and therefore, will likely join the de-dollarization movement, Keiser said.  The US financial sector and its military-industrial complex are unlikely to give up the dollar hegemony without a fight, though, as the dollar is both the basis and the main product of America. And the US will use its other favorite tool for it – war, Keiser believes.

“Maybe they will start a war between Japan and China, and maybe they will start a war with North Korea. America will do anything to keep the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency,” Keiser said.  “They will invade the countries, like Afghanistan, they will stop at nothing. Because this is the basis of the US empire. It’s not land-based, it’s not based on material goods, it’s based on rent-seeking. It’s based on landing dollars, getting out income and when countries can’t pay they dismantle the assets and take them over. We saw it in Latin America, South America, this is how America built its empire”

Whether you agree or not, a currency war has begun and we are all going to be paying close attention in the coming months and years ahead to see how far Washington will go to maintain the supremacy of the U.S. dollar. So as China is getting ready to launch the petro-Yuan, is the U.S. willing to launch a war against North Korea?

This article was originally published by Silent Crow News.

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Basra is supposed to be a prosperous province for its citizens. The province is a home for most of Iraq’s biggest oil fields. Overall, Iraq is a country with the 4th largest oil reserve in the world. All the country’s six ports, transporting oil and other goods, are located in Basra. The petrochemical industry is also growing rapidly. Basra was also blessed with fertile soil so it once became a food barn for the country. 

But Basra residents’ life not even as bright as the night lights of the city. Since 2014, residents of various cities have fled to Basra to escape from ISIS. The population has increased dramatically and the existing infrastructure is no longer adequate. Unemployment is increasing rapidly because new citizens do not have sufficient skills, while foreign companies prefer to employ skilled labor from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh or Indonesia.

In July 2018, hundreds of people in Basra rallied against Prime Minister Haider Abadi’s administration over the various economic problems they faced, especially the lack of electricity and health water, and unemployment.

Actually, these problems are faced by the people in southern Iraq years ago but have never been resolved.  Since the reign of Saddam Hussein, the southern Iraq region with a majority Shiite population has been ignored.

Dr. Dina Y. Sulaeman (image right)

In 2003, US and its allies invaded Iraq to topple President Saddam Hussein. Since then, until 2013, the US occupied Iraq and forced a sectarian system of government for its interest. According toIraqi novelist in New York Times, Sinan Antoon:

L. Paul Bremer III, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, announced the formation of the so-called Governing Council in July 2003. The names of its members were each followed by their sect and ethnicity. Many of the Iraqis we spoke to on that day were upset with institutionalization of an ethno-sectarian quota system. Ethnic and sectarian tensions already existed, but their translation into political currency was toxic. [1]

There is one main fact to consider: Basra is a Shiite-dominated region. The riot in Basra which began in June and escalated on 7th September with the burning of the Iranian consulate building is interesting to analyze since its majority of population are Shiite, and the Prime Minister is a senior member of Iraq’s ruling Shiite political class. 

This fact seems to contradict  the observations of some analysts who wrote that the latest developments in Basra reflects the refusal of Basra citizens to Iranian intervention and/or their rejection of a pro-Iranian government. Many articles, both mainstream media and anti-mainstream demonized Iran as the cause of electricity shortages in Iraq while neglecting to acknowledge the important role of the US in this conflict. This article tries to provide a more comprehensive review on the riots in Basra.

 

 

Iran-Iraq Relations in Idealism Perspective

Most of Middle Eastern observers analyze the conflicts in the region with a realistic perspective: it is all about power struggles. They argue that Iran’s involvement in Iraq is to control the Baghdad regime; or to contain Saudi Arabia’s power in the region; or to fight US hegemony. The religious factor is often used as an argument: the alleged Shiite-theocracy regime wants to expand its influence and power in the region; or, the Shiite-country wants to fight the Sunni-Saudi. 

Strangely, if religion is taken as an important assumption in the analysis, why is it that the opposite assumption is not taken into consideration: it is the religious factor that keeps Iran helping Iraq in the midst of its economic difficulties? Why is this positive-idealism factor often ignored in the analysis about Iran?

In the perspective of idealism, countries are assumed as actors which tend to work together because in this way they  achieve their national interests. Using this idealistic perspective, Iran’s moves in the Middle East, particulary Iraq, would be seen very different perspective in contrast to the images of so-called realist observers.

Iran is a theocratic state which blatantly states that the foundation of its country is the Islamic 12 Imam-Shiite school. Most Iranians are very respectful towards the Prophet Muhammad and his descendants, and this respect also becomes the basis of  foreign policy. In this perspective, Iraq is a spiritually-valuable neighbor for Iran. Many tombs of Shiite-sacred Imams are located in Iraq and every year, 2-3 million Iranian pilgrims come to Iraq to visit those tombs. For that spiritual reason too, following the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iran assisted its neighbor to build infrastructure of electricity, clean water, roads, and airports, in the southern regions of Iraq, especially on the paths of pilgrims from Iran to Iraq, such as Najaf, Basra, and Karbala.

Iran also benefits from the development of the abandoned southern cities of Iraq. Usually, the Shiite pilgrims from many countries visit Iran as well. Travel agents offer Iraqi-Iraqi pilgrimage packages because some sacred tombs of Shiite prominent figures can also be found in Iran. 

And naturally, the increase of tourism in both countries contributes to increasing trade between the two nations.

Now Iran is the third largest exporter to Iraq, after Turkey and China. Iraqis bought Iranian goods at cheaper price than goods from other countries but still the total value reached 6.6 billion USD in one year (2017) [3]. In the past, Iraq and Iran were two nations that fought each other for eight years [largely engineered by Washington] and now, thanks to this spiritual pilgrimage and trade, both countries have become friends.

In the perspective of idealism, this is the ideal relationship between countries: economic cooperation and  peace. This is what idealistic thinkers such as Alfred Zimmern dreamed about.

But this good human tendency is always suppressed by the greed of some parties. There are always superpowers who are interested in waging war because in this way their industrial machines continue to work and make money.

The doctrine of realism provides a justification for “struggle for power” or “survival for the fittest” which equal to enmity and war. 

The realist doctrines frame cooperation between Iran and Iraq as endangering stability. For example, as written by Katzman, a specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs:

“Iran has sought to achieve its goals in Iraq through several strategies: supporting pro-Iranian factions and armed militias; attempting to influence Iraqi political leaders and faction leaders; and building economic ties throughout Iraq. It is Iran’s support for armed Shiite factions that most concerns U.S. officials. That Iranian activity continues to a threat to stability in Iraq, according to senior U.S. commanders, and positions Iran to pursue its interests in Iraq after U.S. forces leave Iraq by the end of 2011.” [4]

If economic and security cooperation are a ‘threat to stability in Iraq’, what about the US embargo towards Iraq in the 1990s which resulted in more than a million deaths, many of them children?

What about the 2003 US invasion of Iraq?

The invasion and occupation has destroyed Iraq’s infrastructure, disrupted its social order while triggering  sectarian warfare and the birth of ISIS. As a result of the US led war on Iraq, water and land in Iraq are contaminated as a result of depleted uranium ammunition. The radioactive fallout has caused cancer, leukemia and congenital birth anomalies. As stated by Scott Ritter, the former UN weapons inspector,

“The irony is we invaded Iraq in 2003 to destroy its non-existent WMD [weapons of mass destruction]. To do it, we fired these new weapons, causing radioactive casualties.”[5]

If we use the idealism perspective, voices from Iraq and Iran that continue to articulate unity between the two brothers will be seen as good thing. It makes sense particularly in view of the pressure of the Trump administration towards the Iraqi government to establish an embargo against Iran. As stated by the ruling party, Dawa: 

“The party calls on all free governments in the world, especially the Islamic ones, to reject these unjust sanctions which contradict the most basic principles of human rights that prohibit the starvation of people.”

Of course, it is not only about the principles of human rights. Iraqi rejection to join the US in embargoing Iran is also related to the country’s interest.

“The 2 [million] or 3 million Iranian pilgrims who come each year represent a major economic activity that Iraq could now be deprived of,” said an economic adviser to PM Abadi, Muzhar Mohammed Salah. [6]

However, why is this reasonable call framed as  a “hard-line-pro-Shia” stance rather than as a reasonable refusal against injustice? Why a superpower can arbitrarily embargo some countries and force other countries to join in the restriction,  even if it is detrimental to the country’s interest?

Resistance to US Hegemony 

Generally, anti-mainstream media have voiced resistance towards US hegemony and crimes in the Middle East. However, in the recent Basra issue, some observers still treat Iran as the same power hungry actor as the US. In one article of Global Research, it is written:

“…Several observers seem to confirm this. They point out that Iran is responsible not only for reducing electricity and water in the south, but also for inciting the inhabitants of Basra to revolt against the oil companies that recruit too few Iraqi workers.”[7]

But strangely, in the same article, the writer admit that,

“Many Iraqis regularly experience power outages – households only get a few hours of electricity a day – despite the fact that billions of dollars have been spent since the US invasion in 2003. Because of mismanagement, corruption and wasting 40 billion dollar to rebuild the electricity grid, Iraq is to date still unable to be self-sufficient.” 

So, is it Iran’s fault, or the incapacity of the Iraqi government?

In July 2018, Iraq’s total electricity debt to Iran has reached 2 billion USD. Nowadays, Iran’s economy is not in a good state with its Riyal hit a record low against the U.S. dollar.

The article also stated that the Saudis have offered electricity for only a quarter of Iran’s price. While the price is doubtful because solar power technology is more expensive than the conventional one, the offer seems strange and this is recognized by the author:

Saudi Arabia agreed to build a solar power plant and sell the electricity to Iraq at a steep discount to supplies the war-torn country previously bought from the kingdom’s regional arch-rival Iran. The deal, which hasn’t been approved yet by Iraqi authorities, includes building a 3,000-megawatt plant in Saudi Arabia within a year of the signing of the agreement, Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity spokesman Mussab Serri said by phone. Iraq will buy the electricity for $21 per megawatt-hour, or a quarter of what it paid Iran for the imports, Serri said.

The question arises: why does Iraq not build a solar power plant in its own country? [8]

By using common sense, we can immediately see that the Saudis offer is nothing but nonsense. If it is true that the Saudis have a very cheap electricity, PM Abadi will not wait long to approve it.

Abadi’s willingness to negotiate with the Saudis on electricity shows that it is far-fetched to assume that his consideration in buying electricity is a matter of Shiite-ideology or ‘a loyalty to Iran’. It is worth noting, it was not the first time that Iran cut off the electricity supply to Iraq due to the payment debt.

So Abadi’s decision is logic: it is better to pay the debt and as a result, in August 2018, Iran opens its electricity supply to Iraq.

The question that should be asked: why is it that after the Iranian-electricity problem was solved, the demonstration of September 7 occured and the Iranian embassy was burned?

Of course, many Iraqi difficulties have yet to be resolved, but why -as Adriaensens wrote, the demonstrators were angry with Iran suggesting that “Shiites have to choose between Iraqi nationalism and loyalty to Iran”? [9] 

Is not it like a misplaced puzzle?

Should the Shiites in the south not thank Iran instead of being angry? Who is really angry with Iran? I am sure that most of anti-mainstream thinkers know the answer: it is in the US interest to generate anti-Iran sentiment.

The US’ Interest

As mentioned earlier, the decree of Paul Bremer in July 2003 has triggered sectarianism in Iraq society.

In May 2003, another decree of Bremer dissolved the Iraqi army and this move incited the birth of ISIS. Christoph Reuter of Spiegel wrote about how Haj Bakr, an ex-Iraqi soldier, formed ISIS:

But when Paul Bremer, then head of the US occupational authority in Baghdad, “dissolved the army by decree in May 2003, he [Haj Bakr] was bitter and unemployed.”

Thousands of well-trained Sunni officers were robbed of their livelihood with the stroke of a pen. In doing so, America created its most bitter and intelligent enemies. Bakr went underground and met Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Anbar Province in western Iraq. [10]

The US crimes in Iraq did not end there. The research of CAR (Conflict Armament Research) found that:

“In one instance, PG-9 73 mm rockets, sold by Romanian arms manufacturers to the U.S. army in 2013 and 2014, were found sprinkled across both battlefields. Containers with matching lot numbers were found in eastern Syria and recovered from an Islamic State convoy in the Iraqi city of Fallujah.”

“On Dec. 12, 2015, Bulgaria exported anti-tank missile launcher tubes to the U.S. army through an Indiana-based company called Kiesler Police Supply. Fifty-nine days later, Iraqi federal police captured the remains of one such weapon after a battle in Ramadi, Iraq.” 

“Videos and images of U.S.-made small arms captured by the Islamic State, particularly M16 and M4 service rifles, are featured prominently in propaganda videos to tout defeat over groups supplied and trained by U.S. personnel.” [11]

And, in October 2016, As with Iraqi military begin a nine-month operation to free Mosul from ISIS’ grip. The Intercept wrote how this operation has done a huge devastation:

The nine-month battle to wrest the city from the Islamic State occupation, led by U.S.-backed Iraqi forces, killed thousands of civilians. It extinguished entire families in seconds. Across Iraq, it displaced millions to refugee camps, many of them from Mosul. It erased years of the city’s history, its dignified 18th-century facades, and the beating heart of the city where both trade and tourism had thrived. It did more damage to Mosul in those nine months than had occurred in the previous 14 years.

Mosul residents are left asking: Who will pay for the reconstruction? [12]

Prof. James Petras in articled published in Global Research (2014) wrote,

“No peaceful economic activity can match the immense profits enjoyed by the military-industrial complex in war. This powerful lobby continues to press for new wars to sustain the Pentagon’s huge budget.  …War profits have soared with the series of military interventions in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.” [13]

Now, fifteen years since the US invaded Iraq using the WMD pretext, some US politicians keep saying that America’s Iraq mission is not over. Senator Ernst says,

“Unless we are confident in Iraq’s capacity and ability to defend themselves, U.S. presence in Iraq will remain necessary to protect our interests.”

So, it is all about US interest. What about the Iraqi interest? 

As I mentioned earlier, the tendency of countries to cooperate peacefully is always plagued by people who take advantage of war and the profits from war.

Then the question remains: how do we believe that Iran has an idealistic perspective in its engagement in Iraq? How do we make sure that it wants to establish cooperation for the mutual interests of the two nations? 

One way to address and answer this question is by analyzing the speech of Iranian elites and prominent media. If we observe the comments in online media, what prevails is an atmosphere which suggests that Iranians are angry with their Iraqi neighbors. They called for the government to no longer help Iraq.  For the Iranian people, it turns out that Iraq is quite a viper in their bosom. 

Interestingly, Iranian officials refrain from criticizing the Iraqi government and repeatedly state that the riot in Basra is a US plot.

Iran’s media actively remind the public that “the aim of the enemies is to create discord between Iranian and Iraqis civil societies”. Kayhan, the most prominent newspaper in Iran, published an article (Parsi) entitled “Curtain of 4 Scenarios” and explained that there are four US scenarios in Iraq. 

First, the US is trying to create tensions among people in northern Iraqi who are mostly Sunnis with the Popular Militia Unit (PMU) which is also called Al-Hashd Al-Sha’abi.

The PMU is formed by the government to mobilize Iraqi civilians to fight ISIS. Its members consist of Shiite, Sunni, Christian, and Yazidi but the US and the pro-US observers always portray the organization as a hardline-pro-Iran entity.

After its success in defeating ISIS, on December 11, 2017, the organization became  consolidated under the Iraqi Armed Forces.

Second, the US and its allies are doing the divide-and-rule scenario at the grassroots of both countries.

Many local Iraqi media, as well as Arab media such as Syarq Al Awsat, are disseminating news that provokes the anger of civilians in both countries. This was also reported by Tehran Times:

A media campaign recently started to agitate the Iraqi people against Iran by negatively covering electricity shortage in Iran that halted export of electricity to Iraq.

It also tried to create cynicism among Iraqis toward Iranian pilgrims who regularly visit Iraq, trying in particular to question the pilgrims’ sexual conduct.

On a parallel plain, the same story was stirred in Iran by media claiming that Iraqi pilgrims who visited Iran’s Mashhad were sexually benefiting from Iranian women.

The cynicism campaign also included fake reports that Iraqis are intentionally burning the plantation at the Hour al-Azim wetland in southwestern Iran in order to cause inconvenience to Iranians living in Khuzestan province.[15]

Third, the riots in Basra reflect a similar pattern to  the riots in Iran in early 2018. In Iraq, pro-Saddam yells were shouted, while in Iran, pro Shah Reza’s yells were also shouted. Considering that both figures were US proxies, and considering the US interest as mentioned earlier, it is clear, who the initiator of the riots is. 

Fourth, the burning of the Iranian consulate was carried out before the military operation to free Idlib’s Syria from the grip of US-backed jihadist militias and few weeks before the largest pilgrimage ritual in the world, Arbaeen Walk.

Every year in the month of Safar (Islamic Calendar) Shiites from various parts of Iraq, Iran, and many other countries conduct long marches to the tomb of Husein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, in Karbala city. As written by Catherine Shakhdam, Arbaeen Walk shows the world that “Islam really has nothing to do with the Terror Daesh/ISIS has carried underneath its flag.

It is rather the doctrine Daesh’s architects have formulated in its name that came to pollute our public discourse and set ablaze communities.” [16]

Considering these two events, Kayhan advised the Iranian public to act wisely because the aim of the Basra riot was “to create divisions between two brothers and sisters together, Iran and Iraq, which at the same time would create divisions within the axis of Resistance”. As we all know, Iran, Iraq and Syria are three sovereign countries that face the same enemy: jihadist militias, which claim to fight in the name of Islam but are supplied with funds and weapons by the US and Israel.

*

Dr. Dina Y. Sulaeman is Director of Indonesia’s Center for Middle East Studies. Bandung. 

Notes

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/19/opinion/iraq-war-anniversary-.html

[2] https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2018/01/19/can-the-us-still-rely-on-iraqi-prime-minister-haider-al-abadi/

[3] https://thearabweekly.com/questions-over-baghdads-ability-abide-renewed-us-sanctions-against-iran

[4] https://fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RS22323.pdf

[5] https://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/why-us-wont-apologise-sorry-destroy-iraq-war-bush-1838892478

[6] https://thearabweekly.com/questions-over-baghdads-ability-abide-renewed-us-sanctions-against-iran

[7] https://www.globalresearch.ca/revolt-in-iraq-the-lion-of-babylon-roars-again/5651009

[8] ibid

[9] ibid

[10] http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/islamic-state-files-show-structure-of-islamist-terror-group-a-1029274.html

[11] https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2017/12/14/us-weapons-helped-daesh-fuel-industrial-revolution-of-terrorism-report.html

[12] https://theintercept.com/2018/04/22/to-defeat-isis-the-u-s-helped-turn-old-mosul-into-rubble-but-wont-help-rebuild-it/

[13] https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-soaring-profits-of-the-military-industrial-complex-the-soaring-costs-of-military-casualties/5388393

[14] http://kayhan.ir/fa/mobile/news/141598/1373 

[15] https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/427304/Iran-Iraq-integrity-under-attack-as-suspects-burn-consulate-in

[16] https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/a-pilgrimage-of-the-heart-arbaeen-2017-shows-the_us_5a0c8535e4b006523921858f

Prof. Michel Chossudovsky über einen Friedensplan für Korea

September 15th, 2018 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

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The belongings of Arjen Kamphuis, a Dutch cybersecurity expert closely associated with the transparency organization WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, have been found in Norway, sparking fears that Kamphuis was the victim of a criminal act.

Kamphuis’ belongings were found on Tuesday floating in the sea east of the Norwegian town of Bodø, where Kamphuis was last seen on August 20 by a local fisherman.

The discovery is the first concrete lead in an intensive, weeks-long search that was conducted in part by Norway’s elite missing-persons and organized-crime unit, Kripos.

Notably, Bodø is home to important Norwegian and NATO military installations as well as being a critical node of NATO’s “cyber defense” network.

On September 4, Norwegian police stated that, while an investigation into Kamphuis’ disappearance had been opened, there was “no reason to assume that there is a crime, but we keep all possibilities open” and that police had no theory regarding the cybersecurity expert’s disappearance.

Yet, following the discovery of Kamphuis’ belongings, Norwegian police have been tight-lipped, stating on Wednesday that “due to the ongoing investigation, the police do not at this time wish to release any information about which specific items that have been found.”

Kamphuis’ association with WikiLeaks and his reputation as an internet security expert have spawned several theories regarding his disappearance, with some suggesting that he may have become a target of intelligence agencies given his status as an “associate” of Assange, his efforts to instruct journalists in how to keep their communications secure, and his offer to train WikiLeaks members in how to shield their data from government surveillance.

Kamphuis’ advocacy against government surveillance and past work with WikiLeaks may indeed have drawn the ire of intelligence agencies like the CIA, as the agency was greatly embarrassed by the WikiLeaks Vault 7 releases last year, which exposed the CIA’s hacking program and how the agency lost control over its hacking tools and exploits.

WikiLeaks and its associates in U.S. crosshairs

Furthermore, the U.S. government in general has upped the ante in its fight to silence government leakers and whistleblowers, as well as the organization of WikiLeaks itself, which then-Director of the CIA Mike Pompeo (currently serving as Secretary of State) labeled a “hostile intelligence service” that was not entitled to First Amendment protections.

Notably, the U.S. government has actively been pursuing Julian Assange, who has remained in the Ecuadorian Embassy for over six years after receiving political asylum in 2012. Assange’s asylum has come under threat as the Trump administration has exerted extreme political pressure against Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno, leading those close to Assange to worry that his asylum could be withdrawn in the weeks and months ahead.

Other reasons for concern regarding Kamphuis’ disappearance involve past suspicious deaths of other close associates of Assange. For instance, prominent human rights lawyer John Jones, who represented Assange when the Swedish government initially tried to extradite him for questioning on rape accusations, died in May 2016 from an apparent suicide after being struck by a train. However, three months later, his death was ruled not to have been a suicide, as had previously been claimed, and the case remains unsolved. At the time of his death, Jones was working to save the lives of the son of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and former Libyan spy chief Abdullah al-Senussi.

Another well-publicized case is the 2016 murder of alleged WikiLeaks source Seth Rich, who is believed to be the source of the WikiLeaks Democratic National Committee emails release. After Rich’s death, Assange hinted that Rich was the source of the emails and WikiLeakssubsequently offered a $20,000 reward for information that would help bring his killer to justice.

Two other close associates of Assange, Michael Ratner and Gavin MacFadyen, also died in 2016. However, no evidence has emerged that paints their deaths in a suspicious light, as both were said to have died from complications relating to cancer.

*

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.

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Global Research Introductory Note

We bring to the attention of our readers three videos pertaining to alleged roles of Petrov and Boshirov in the Skripal Affair.

**

  1. CCTV Camera Footage of the Suspects
  2. The official UK police statement indicating the timeline (September 5)
  3. The RT interview with Petrov and Boshirov including the full (English) transcript.

Suggestion to our readers: view the CCTV and official UK police timeline videos prior to viewing the RT interview.

**

1, CCTV Camera Footage of Suspects, March 2-3, 2018

Notice that the two suspects pass through the corridor at exactly the same time and the same place at 16:22:43 

Physically impossible. One would assume that they would be one behind the other which is not the case.  Was the time stamp on the  CCTV footage manipulated?

See the analysis of Craig Murray on this issue 

***

2. The official UK police statement by Neil Basu, Assistant Commissioner, Terrorism Policing, indicating the Timeline (The Sun, September 5, 2018)

The Sun, September 5

***

3. The RT interview with Petrov and Boshirov including the full transcript(English subtitles).

RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan has spoken exclusively to the two men the UK named as suspects in the Skripal poisoning – Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.

MARGARITA SIMONYAN: You called my cell phone, saying that you were Ruslan Boshirov and Аlexander Petrov. You’re Aleksandr Petrov, and you’re Ruslan Boshirov. You look like the people from the pictures and videos from the UK. So who are you in reality?

Complete Transcript

ALEXANDER PETROV: We are the people you saw.

RUSLAN BOSHIROV: I’m Ruslan Boshirov.

PETROV: And I’m Alexander Petrov.

SIMONYAN: These are your real names?

BOSHIROV: Yes, they are our real names.

SIMONYAN: But even now, frankly, you look very tense.

PETROV: What would you look like if you were in our shoes?

BOSHIROV: When your whole life is turned upside down all of a sudden, overnight, and torn down.

Source: Metroplitan Police / Global Look Press

SIMONYAN: The guys we all saw in those videos from London and Salisbury, wearing those jackets and trainers, it’s you?

PETROV: Yes, it’s us.

SIMONYAN: What were you doing there?

PETROV: Our friends have been suggesting for quite a long time that we visit this wonderful city.

SIMONYAN: Salisbury? A wonderful city?

PETROV:  Yes.

SIMONYAN: What makes it so wonderful?

BOSHIROV:  It’s a tourist city. They have a famous cathedral there, Salisbury Cathedral. It’s famous throughout Europe and, in fact, throughout the world, I think. It’s famous for its 123-meter spire. It’s famous for its clock. It’s one of the oldest working clocks in the world.

SIMONYAN: So, you travelled to Salisbury to see the clock?

PETROV: No, initially we planned to go to London and have some fun there. This time, it wasn’t a business trip. Our plan was to spend some time in London and then to visit Salisbury. Of course, we wanted to do it all in one day. But when we got there, our plane couldn’t land on its first approach. That’s because of all the havoc they had with transport in the UK on March 2 and 3. There was heavy snowfall, nearly all the cities were paralyzed. We were unable to go anywhere.

BOSHIROV: It was in all the news. Railroads didn’t work on March 2 and 3. Motorways were closed. Police cars and ambulances blocked off highways. There was no traffic at all – no trains, nothing. Why is it that nobody talks about any of this?

SIMONYAN: Can you give a time line? Minute-by-minute, or at least hour-by-hour, or as much as you can remember. You arrived in the UK – like you said, to have some fun and to see the cathedral, to see some clock in Salisbury. Can you tell us what you did in the UK? You spent two days there, right?

PETROV: Actually, three.

SIMONYAN: OK, three. What did you do for those three days?

PETROV: We arrived on March 2. We went to the train station to check the schedule, to see where we could go.

BOSHIROV: The initial plan was to go there for a day. Just take a look and return the same day.

PETROV: To Salisbury, that is. One day in Salisbury is enough. There’s not much you can do there.

BOSHIROV: It’s a regular city. A regular tourist city.

SIMONYAN: OK, I get that. That was your plan. But what did you actually do? You arrived. There was heavy snowfall. No trains, nothing. So, what did you do?

PETROV: No, we arrived in Salisbury on March 3. We wanted to walk around the city but since the whole city was covered with snow, we spent only 30 minutes there. We were all wet.

BOSHIROV: There are no pictures. The media, television – nobody talks about the fact that the transport system was paralyzed that day. It was impossible to get anywhere because of the snow. We were drenched up to our knees.

SIMONYAN: All right. You went for a walk for 30 minutes, you got wet. What next?

PETROV: We travelled there to see Stonehenge, Old Sarum, and the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But it didn’t work out because of the slush. The whole city was covered with slush. We got wet, so we went back to the train station and took the first train to go back. We spent about 40 minutes in a coffee shop at the train station.

BOSHIROV: Drinking coffee. A hot drink because we were drenched.

PETROV: Maybe a little over an hour. That’s because of large intervals between trains. I think this was because of the snowfall. We went back to London and continued with our journey.

Source: Metroplitan Police / Global Look Press
BOSHIROV: We walked around London…

SIMONYAN: So, you only spent an hour in Salisbury?

PETROV: On March 3? Yes. That’s because it was impossible to get anywhere.

SIMONYAN: What about the next day?

PETROV: On March 4, we went back there, because the snow melted in London, it was warm.

BOSHIROV: It was sunny.

PETROV: And we thought – we really wanted to see Old Sarum and the cathedral. So we decided to give it another try on March 4.

SIMONYAN: Another try to do what?

PETROV: To go sightseeing.

BOSHIROV: To see this famous cathedral. To visit Old Sarum.

SIMONYAN: So, did you see it?

BOSHIROV: Yes, we did.

PETROV: On March 4, we did. But again, by lunchtime, there was heavy sleet.

BOSHIROV: For some reason, nobody talks about this.

PETROV: So we left early.

SIMONYAN: Is it beautiful?

BOSHIROV: The cathedral is very beautiful. There are lots of tourists, lots of Russian tourists, lots of Russian-speaking tourists.

PETROV: By the way, they should have a lot of pictures from the cathedral.

SIMONYAN: Your pictures, you mean?

PETROV: They should show them.

SIMONYAN: I assume you took some pictures while at the cathedral?

PETROV: Of course.

BOSHIROV: Sure, we did. We went to a park, we had some coffee. We went to a coffee shop. We walked around, enjoying those beautiful English Gothic buildings.

PETROV: For some reason, they don’t show this. They only show how we went to the train station.

SIMONYAN: If you give us your pictures, we can show them. So, while you were in Salisbury, did you go anywhere near the Skripals home?

PETROV: Maybe. We don’t know.

BOSHIROV: What about you? Do you know where their house is?

SIMONYAN: I don’t. Do you?

BOSHIROV: We don’t either.

PETROV: I wish somebody told us where it was.

BOSHIROV: Maybe we passed it, or maybe we didn’t. I’d never heard about them before this nightmare started. I’d never heard this name before. I didn’t know anything about them.

Police guard Sergei Skripal house in Salisbury. © Andrew Parsons/ZUMA Press/Global Look Press

SIMONYAN: When you arrived in the UK, when you were in London or in Salisbury, throughout your whole trip, did you have any Novichok or some other poisonous agent or dangerous substance with you?

BOSHIROV: No.

PETROV: It’s absurd.

SIMONYAN: Did you have that bottle of Nina Ricci perfume which the UK presents as evidence of your alleged crime?

BOSHIROV: Don’t you think that it’s kind of stupid for two straight men to be carrying perfume for ladies? When you go through customs, they check all your belongings. So, if we had anything suspicious, they would definitely have questions. Why would a man have women’s perfume in his bag?

PETROV: Even an ordinary person would have questions. Why would a man need perfume for women?

Counterfeit perfume box found by Charlie Rowley on 27 June. © Metropolitan Police

SIMONYAN: How would it be possible for someone to find any perfume bottle on you?

BOSHIROV: I mean, when you go through customs…

SIMONYAN: Long story short, did you have that Nina Ricci bottle or not?

BOSHIROV: No.

PETROV: No, of course not.

SIMONYAN: Speaking of you being straight men, all the footage features you two together. You spent time together, you stayed together, you went for a walk together. What do you have in common that you spend so much time together?

BOSHIROV: You know, let’s not breach anyone’s privacy. We came to you for protection, but this is turning into some kind of an interrogation. You are going too far. We came to you for protection. You’re not interrogating us.

SIMONYAN: We are journalists, we don’t protect. We aren’t lawyers. In fact, this was my next question. Why did you decide to go to the media? Your photos were published some time ago together with your names, but you kept silent. But then today you called me, because you want to speak to the media. What’s changed?

BOSHIROV: To ask for protection.

PETROV: You say we kept silent. After, our lives turned into a nightmare, we didn’t know what to do, where to go. The police?  The Investigative Committee? The UK embassy?

BOSHIROV: Or the FSB. We don’t know.

SIMONYAN: Why would you go to the UK embassy?

PETROV: We really didn’t know what to do. Where to go? Hello?

BOSHIROV: You know, when your life is turned upside down, you don’t really understand what to do and where to go. And many say, why don’t they go to the UK embassy and explain everything?

Source:  Metroplitan Police / Global Look Press

SIMONYAN: And you know what they are saying about you, right?

PETROV: Of course we do.

BOSHIROV: Yes, of course. We can’t go out on the street because we are scared. We’re afraid.

SIMONYAN: What are you afraid of?

BOSHIROV: We fear for our lives. And for the lives of our families and friends.

SIMONYAN: So, you fear that the UK secret service will kill you or what?

BOSHIROV: We just don’t know.

PETROV: Simply read what even the Russian media is writing. They are offering a reward.

SIMONYAN: What do you mean? There’s a bounty on your head?

BOSHIROV: Dmitry Gudkov, if I am not mistaken, promised a trip to the UK for anybody who brings us to him. Do you think that’s okay? And you think we can feel just fine, walking around smiling, talking to people? Any sensible person would be afraid.

SIMONYAN: Why did you call me of all people? Why did you contact RT?

BOSHIROV: We were reading the news today, your Telegram channel.

SIMONYAN: Now I know people read it. 

PETROV: You said it yourself. I don’t know whether I can mention this on air.

SIMONYAN: Just say it. If it’s something we can’t say, we’ll take it out.

PETROV: “Let’s go bastards,” you wrote.

SIMONYAN: Oh, that. I wrote, “Go to the back of the line, you bastards,” [meaning other media]. [This is a quote from Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel Heart of a Dog.]

BOSHIROV: Yes. So, after we saw that, we decided to call you.

SIMONYAN: Vladimir Putin appealed to you today, saying that they have identified you and that you should contact the media. If it hadn’t been for Putin, would you have contacted us? 

PETROV: Margarita, you know, probably we would’ve recorded a video and put it on the Web.

SIMONYAN: You would’ve recorded a video and posted it?

PETROV: We don’t have any experience with the media. It would’ve been easier for us to lay it all out online.

BOSHIROV: To ask for protection, for help.

PETROV: Today, we haven’t watched it live, but I heard it on the radio and suggested that we do it.

BOSHIROV: Yes, it gave us an impulse.

PETROV: And so we called you.

Forensics Police officers investigating Ashley Wood Garage in Salisbury, where Skripol car was taken following the attempted murder. © I-Images/Global Look Press

SIMONYAN: Do you work for the GRU? 

PETROV: And you, do you?

SIMONYAN: Me? No, I don’t, and you?

PETROV: I don’t.

BOSHIROV: Me neither.

SIMONYAN: Well, no one accuses me of working for the GRU, right? It’s different with you two.

BOSHIROV: And these are your colleagues who accuse us.

SIMONYAN: By my colleagues, you mean journalists, right? You are being accused by British law enforcement. They say you work for the GRU.

PETROV: This is the worst.

SIMONYAN: What do you do then? You’re two adults, you must be working somewhere. 

PETROV: We are businessmen. We have a medium-sized business.

SIMONYAN: What does that mean?

PETROV: If we tell you about our business…

BOSHIROV: …This will affect the people we work with. We don’t want this to happen.

SIMONYAN: Tell us at least something. Do you want people to believe you or not? For many months, they’ve been trying to make people believe in the opposite of what you say. Some believe you, some don’t. If you say you don’t work for the GRU but you refuse to talk about your business, I have questions, and our audience will have questions too…if you are not GRU, not spies, never poisoned anyone, and you went there simply as tourists. So, what is it you do?

PETROV: Very briefly, we work in the fitness industry. Supplements for athletes, vitamins, minerals, proteins, gainers, and others. If we give you any further details, this may affect our partners and people we know.

SIMONYAN: You are sweating, let me turn on the AC.

BOSHIROV: Yes, thanks.

PETROV: It’s hot.

SIMONYAN: So, you are in the fitness industry. So, do you consult with people in Europe who want to build muscle?

PETROV: Yes.

SIMONYAN: So, what you do in Europe is advise those who want to get bigger biceps or what?

PETROV: Why in Europe?

SIMONYAN: Well, this is going to be my next question, but first I would like you to answer this one.

PETROV: I advise them here [not in Europe].

SIMONYAN: Here?

PETROV: Right. Actually, advice on how to build up your biceps is not as trendy now – body shaping is… so-called “drying out”  (dehydration),  living healthy and eating proper.

BOSHIROV: Eating properly, healthy lifestyle…

SIMONYAN: So, you help your clients to achieve a beautiful body or work in fitness clubs… You are a coach then.

PETROV: Pretty much yes.

BOSHIROV: We wouldn’t like to go public on this or provide further details about our work and all that. I just don’t want this story to affect our clients, people we work with. I don’t wish to elaborate.

Source: Metroplitan Police / Global Look Press

SIMONYAN: Okay. The British say that you have made a lot – if not dozens – of visits to Europe in the last couple of years, Switzerland being named as your primary destination. What business could you have there as fitness coaches and physical trainers?

BOSHIROV: The British say all kinds of things…

SIMONYAN: So you didn’t go to Europe?

BOSHIROV: The hotel room that they show and say we stayed in has a bed for one person only. Meanwhile, right next to it there are double and triple rooms. And it is perfectly normal for tourists to stay together in a double room. It saves money and it’s practical. It’s more fun that way and it’s also easier. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this.

SIMONYAN: There is no need to make any excuses here. Frankly, the world couldn’t care less about that. So, have you been to Europe in the last couple of years?

BOSHIROV: Sure.

PETROV: Yes. Mostly on business trips.

SIMONYAN: Which took you mostly to Switzerland?

PETROV: Yes, and once again…

SIMONYAN: So it’s true?

PETROV: No, not mostly to Switzerland…

BOSHIROV: They exaggerate this… the number…

PETROV: If memory serves me well, we had just a couple of trips to Switzerland. We spent some time during the New Year holidays there.

SIMONYAN: But what were you doing there? What does it have to do with your business? I know you don’t want to expose your clients, but what does your business have to do with Switzerland?

PETROV: Our trips are not always business-related. We went to Switzerland on holiday. We did have some business trips there as well, but I can’t really remember when it was…

BOSHIROV: It’s perfectly normal to go to Geneva. It’s the shortest route to Montblanc. You can go to France – it’s just a few kilometres away. It’s convenient.

SIMONYAN: So what was it: a business trip or a holiday trip?

PETROV: We had both kinds of trips, business mostly.

SIMONYAN: And what does your business have to do with Europe?

PETROV: It’s about healthy food, products and vitamins that they sell in Europe.

SIMONYAN: So, you purchase food there and then bring it here?

PETROV: It’s not about buying it and bringing it over here in bags. We study the market for new products, including biologically active food supplements, amino acids, vitamins and microelements. Then we come back and decide what we need the most and try to figure out how these new products can be shipped over here. This is an area of our work.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed traces of Novichok were found in the two-star hotel after being tested at Porton Down. © Gustavo Valiente / Global Look Press

SIMONYAN: I’ve got some screenshots in this little file here. Is this you?

BOSHIROV AND PETROV: Yes. Right.

SIMONYAN: Do you recognize your clothes?

BOSHIROV AND PETROV: Yes.

SIMONYAN: And now you’re wearing different clothes, right?

PETROV: Yes, but…

BOSHIROV: …we left it…

PETROV: …in the wardrobe…

BOSHIROV: …that’s right, I have that jacket in my wardrobe…

PETROV: Those shoes were bought in England, the jacket…

BOSHIROV: …well-advertized New Balance sneakers. We still wear all that.

SIMONYAN: And you’ve got it all here, in Russia?

PETROV: Here you’re wearing the shoes you bought in Oxford Street, if my memory serves me right…

BOSHIROV: Yeah, I did, and it was on the third, by the way…

PETROV: Because when we got wet on the third…

BOSHIROV: We got wet on the third…

PETROV: We got back to London and did bit of shopping…

BOSHIROV: Yeah, we got new shoes. I went and bought new shoes and the next day I was wearing a different pair.

SIMONYAN: And you’ve got all those clothes in Russia now?

BOSHIROV: Yes.

PETROV: Of course.

BOSHIROV: Sure, we can show them to you.

SIMONYAN: You haven’t got any of those clothes just now, by any chance, have you?

BOSHIROV: I have – I’ve got the jacket. I’ve got it here.

PETROV: That one?

BOSHIROV: Yeah. I’ve got it here.

PETROV: I’ve got them all in the wardrobe back at my place.

SIMONYAN: Right. Here’s the photo that’s got the whole world puzzled. Gatwick. You’re going through the gate at the same time, even at the same second. How do you explain that?

BOSHIROV: I think it’s for them to explain.

PETROV: How can we explain it?

CCTV images of Petrov and Boshirov at Gatwick airport on 2 March 2018.

BOSHIROV: We always go through the gate together. Through the same gate, with the same customs officer. One after another. We walked through that corridor together. We’re always together. As to how it happened – us walking there at the same second and then separately – I think it’s a question that should be put to them.

PETROV: Yeah, on the point of us always going through it together – my English is a bit better, so if any problem crops up, I’m there to help Ruslan out.

SIMONYAN: So you went through together? You didn’t take different corridors?

PETROV: No, we never go through separately.

BOSHIROV: No, never.

SIMONYAN: So what about these photos then? You say it never happened? Or were they doctored?

BOSHIROV: Well, I don’t really know…

PETROV: It’d be a good thing if we could actually remember it…

BOSHIROV: … how they do these things over there. When you arrive at an airport, or leave one, when you go somewhere or other, you never think about the cameras… There’s nothing interesting about them. How they film, or what, or where – I’m not interested in any of that and so I never took any notice. Given that it was them who published these photos with this time on them and all, I think the best thing to do would be to ask them.

A tent is erected in the garden of Sergei Skripal house in Salisbury. © Andrew Parsons/Zuma Press/Global Look Press

SIMONYAN: What are your thoughts on this whole Skripal case? Who poisoned him? You ever thought about it at all?

PETROV: Well, it’s hard to say… As to whether we’re thinking about it…

SIMONYAN: I mean before you saw your photos on TV.

PETROV: We’re living it. I’ll say one thing, though…

BOSHIROV: I think for the time being I’ll…

PETROV: If they ever find the ones who did it, it’d be nice if they at least apologized to us.

SIMONYAN: Who? The poisoners?

PETROV: Even considering the fact…

BOSHIROV: No, the British.

PETROV: Even considering the fact that all this time we – how long have they been going on about it all now? Five days, a week? I’ve lost count of time. I mean, I’m really…

BOSHIROV: You have no idea what it’s done to our lives…

PETROV: Can’t even go and fill up your car in peace…

BOSHIROV: What it’s done to your lives…

SIMONYAN: People recognize you that often?

PETROV: Well, we think they do. How else can we feel when they keep showing our photos on TV?

BOSHIROV: Every day. Full-screen. Our two photos.

PETROV: It’s scary…

BOSHIROV: You turn on the radio and it goes ‘Boshirov, Petrov’. You turn on the TV – same thing. What would your life be like under these circumstances? I’m frightened, I’m scared… I don’t know what to expect tomorrow. That’s why we’ve come to you.

PETROV: I try not to watch any news now. He still does though, and I just ask him sometimes, ‘Well, anything new?’ and I expect to hear ‘no, it’s all the same’ but he goes, ‘Yeah, plenty’ – they keep making it worse and worse. How much longer can it go on?

SIMONYAN: What are you going to do now?

PETROV: No idea. We simply want to be left in peace.

Source: Metroplitan Police / Global Look Press

SIMONYAN: Aren’t you now on a travel blacklist? I mean, if you leave Russia you will most likely get arrested.

PETROV: Well, we hope that the situation can be resolved.

BOSHIROV: Yes, we want it to be resolved, for the British side to apologize for all this mess, for the real culprits in the Skripal case to be found, and for our lives to change for the better.

PETROV: The whole situation is some kind of extraordinary coincidence – that’s all. What are we guilty of?

BOSHIROV: We simply would like to be left in peace right now, at least for a little while. We want everybody to calm down.

PETROV: At least our media, your colleagues.

SIMONYAN: ‘Our’ meaning Russian?

BOSHIROV: We want to live peacefully for a while.

PETROV: We kind of realize what will happen after this interview.

BOSHIROV: Well, I don’t know what will happen tomorrow.

PETROV: In any case, we will have to…

SIMONYAN: You’ll become talk show stars!

PETROV: That’s not what we want. One just wants to hide and sit it all out.

BOSHIROV: So that they get off our backs.

PETROV: We certainly don’t want publicity of that sort.

BOSHIROV: We simply wish to be left alone.

PETROV: We’re sick and tired of all this.

BOSHIROV: Exhausted.

PETROV: If it is possible, please, everybody leave us alone. That’s all. You’re our way  of getting this word out to everybody, including your fellow journalists. Even if somebody recognizes our faces (since we can’t simply stay at home, we have to go out in public), dear friends, please, don’t grab your phones… I don’t know what to say… We simply want some peace. I understand that we won’t return to normal life as soon as we would like to…

BOSHIROV: But we at least don’t want to be pestered right now.

SIMONYAN: Thank you. Thank you for coming here, to RT.

BOSHIROV: Thank you for hearing us out.

PETROV: Thank you very much.

Lynch Mob Mentality. The Boshirov and Petrov story

September 15th, 2018 by Craig Murray

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I was caught in a twitterstorm of hatred yesterday, much of it led by mainstream media journalists  for daring to suggest that the basic elements of Boshirov and Petrov’s story do in fact stack up. What became very plain quite quickly was that none of these people had any grasp of the detail of the suspects’ full twenty minute interview, but had just seen the short clips or quotes as presented by British corporate and state media.

As I explained in my last post, what first gave me some sympathy for the Russians’ story and drew me to look at it closer, was the raft of social media claims that there was no snow in Salisbury that weekend and Stonehenge had not been closed. In fact, Stonehenge was indeed closed on 3 March by heavy snow, as confirmed by English Heritage. So the story that they came to Salisbury on 3 March but could not go to Stonehenge because of heavy snow did stand up, contrary to almost the entire twittersphere.

Once there was some pushback of truth about this on social media, people started triumphantly posting the CCTV images from 4 March to prove that there was no snow lying in Central Salisbury on 4 March. But nobody ever said there was snow on 4 March – in fact Borisov and Petrov specifically stated that they learnt there was a thaw so they went back. However when they got there, they encountered heavy sleet and got drenched through. That accords precisely with the photographic evidence in which they are plainly drenched through.

Another extraordinary meme that causes hilarity on twitter is that Russians might be deterred by snow or cold weather.

Well, Russians are human beings just like us. They cope with cold weather at home because they have the right clothes. Boshirov and Petrov refer continually in the interview to cold, wet feet and again this is borne out by the photographic evidence – they were wearing sneakers unsuitable to the freak weather conditions that were prevalent in Salisbury on 3 and 4 March. They are indeed soaked through in the pictures, just as they said in the interview.

Russians are no more immune to cold and wet than you are.

Twitter is replete with claims that they were strange tourists, to be visiting a housing estate. No evidence has been produced anywhere that shows them on any housing estate. They were seen on CCTV camera walking up the A36 by the Shell station, some 400 yards from the Skripals’ house, which would require three turnings to get to that – turnings nobody saw them take (and they were on the wrong side of the road for the first turning, even though it would be very close). No evidence has been mentioned which puts them at the Skripals’ House.

Finally, it is everywhere asserted that it is very strange that Russians would take a weekend break holiday, and that if they did they could not possibly be interested in architecture or history. This is a simple expression of anti-Russian racism. Plainly before their interview – about which they were understandably nervous – they prepared what they were going to say, including checking up on what it was they expected to see in Salisbury because they realised they would very obviously be asked why they went. Because their answer was prepared does not make it untrue.

That literally people thousands of people have taken to twitter to mock that it is hilariously improbable that tourists might want to visit Salisbury Cathedral and Stonehenge, is a plain example of the irrationality that can overtake people when gripped by mob hatred.

I am astonished by the hatred that has been unleashed. The story of Gerry Conlon might, you would hope, give us pause as to presuming the guilt of somebody who just happened to be of the “enemy” nationality, in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Despite the mocking mob, there is nothing inherently improbable in the tale told by the two men. What matters is whether they can be connected to the novichok, and here the safety of the identification of the microscopic traces of novichok allegedly found in their hotel bedroom is key. I am no scientist, but I have been told by someone who is, that if the particle(s) were as the police state so small as to be harmless to humans, they would be too small for mass spectrometry analysis and almost certainly could not be firmly identified other than as an organophosphate. Perhaps someone qualified might care to comment.

The hotel room novichok is the key question in this case.

Were I Vladimir Putin, I would persuade Boshirov and Petrov voluntarily to come to the UK and stand trial, on condition that it was a genuinely fair trial before a jury in which the entire proceedings, and all of the evidence, was open and public, and the Skripals and Pablo Miller might be called as witnesses and cross-examined. I have no doubt that the British government’s desire for justice would suddenly move into rapid retreat if their bluff was called in this way.

As for me, when I see a howling mob rushing to judgement and making at least some claims which are utterly unfounded, and when I see that mob fueled and egged on by information from the security services propagated by exactly the same mainstream media journalists who propagandised the lies about Iraqi WMD, I see it as my job to stand in the way of the mob and to ask cool questions. If that makes them hate me, then I must be having some impact.

So I ask this question again – and nobody so far has attempted to give me an answer. At what time did the Skripals touch their doorknob? Boshirov and Petrov arrived in Salisbury at 11.48 and could not have painted the doorknob before noon. The Skripals had left their house at 09.15, with their mobile phones switched off so they could not be geo-located. Their car was caught on CCTV on three cameras heading out of Salisbury to the North East. At 13.15 it was again caught on camera heading back in to the town centre from the North West.

How had the Skripals managed to get back to their home, and touch the door handle, in the hour between noon and 1pm, without being caught on any of the CCTV cameras that caught them going out and caught the Russian visitors so extensively? After this remarkably invisible journey, what time did they touch the door handle?

I am not going to begin to accept the guilt of Boshirov and Petrov until somebody answers that question. Dan Hodges? David Aaronovitch? Theresa May? Anybody?

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Trump Administration Outraged at John Kerry for Talking to Iran

September 15th, 2018 by Middle East Eye

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday lambasted his predecessor, John Kerry, for meeting Iranian officials in back-channel talks and accused him of trying to undermine the Trump administration’s policy toward Tehran.

“What Secretary Kerry has done is unseemly and unprecedented,” Pompeo told a news conference, adding that he “ought not to engage in that kind of behavior. It’s inconsistent with what the foreign policy of the United States is, as directed by this president. It is beyond inappropriate.”

Pompeo’s crack at Kerry comes a day after President Donald Trump accused the former secretary of state of “illegal meetings with the very hostile Iranian Regime” in a late-night tweet.

“John Kerry had illegal meetings with the very hostile Iranian Regime which can only serve to undercut our great work to the detriment of the American people,” Trump said on Twitter late on Thursday.

“He told them to wait out the Trump Administration!” he said, ending his Tweet with the word “BAD!”

Kerry, who negotiated the 2015 Iran nuclear deal which Trump scrapped this year, said during a tour to promote his new book “Every Day is Extra” that he had met Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif “three or four times” since he left office and Trump had entered the White House.

A spokesperson for Kerry said in a statement on Friday:

“Kerry stays in touch with his former counterparts around the world just like every previous secretary of state.

“There’s nothing unusual, let alone unseemly or inappropriate, about former diplomats meeting with foreign counterparts… What is unseemly and unprecedented is for the podium of the State Department to be hijacked for political theatrics,” the spokesperson added.

Meanwhile, Kerry took to Twitter to respond to Trump, saying:

“Mr. President, you should be more worried about Paul Manafort meeting with Robert Mueller than me meeting with Iran’s FM. But if you want to learn something about the nuclear agreement that made the world safer, buy my new book.”

Asked by conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday if he had offered Zarif advice on how to deal with Trump’s decision to withdraw from the pact, Kerry replied:

“No, that’s not my job.”

“I’ve been very blunt to Foreign Minister Zarif, and told him look, you guys need to recognize that the world does not appreciate what’s happening with missiles, what’s happening with Hezbollah, what’s happening with Yemen,” he added, echoing the current administration’s denunciation of Tehran’s “malign” influence.

Conservative commentators immediately leapt on the act as evidence of “treason,” with some calling for Kerry to go to prison.

Asked by a Republican lawmaker during a congressional hearing about the so-called shadow diplomacy, Manisha Singh, an assistant secretary of state, said Thursday:

“It’s unfortunate if people from a past administration would try to compromise the progress we’re trying to make in this administration.”

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert added:

“I’ve seen him brag about the meetings that he has had with the Iranian government and Iranian government officials. I’ve also seen reports that he is apparently providing, according to reports, advice to the Iranian government.

“The best advice that he should be giving the Iranian government is stop supporting terror groups around the world.”

A Traditional Right: Jimmie Akesson and the Sweden Democrats

September 15th, 2018 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

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Sweden’s elections are normally dull affairs. The same political arrangements have been in place for decades, featuring mild oscillations around the centre between the green-red bloc (Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left Party) and the conservative Alliance (the Moderates, Christian Democrats and the Centre and Liberal Parties). 

The favoured line for political watchers of Sweden is standard.  Few monumental disagreements have registered since Sweden became a model free-education welfare state with impeccable health services funded by high taxes.  But Europe has caught a rash, and it has become something of a contagion.  The symptoms are clear enough: consternation at Brussels at the centralising European machinery; concerns about immigration; apoplexy about perceptions of rising crime; and the corrosions posed to the once seemingly impregnable welfare state.

Sweden’s own contribution to such fears comes in the form of Jimmie Åkesson of the Sweden Democrats, a person who reminds the observer of fascist politics that appearances, and the aesthetic of appeal, matter.  Last Sunday’s elections saw the SD do well, garnering 42 of the 342 seats in the Riksdag. 

While his party was nursed in the bosom of neo-Nazi politics in the 1980s, Åkesson has spruced matters up, giving the impression that slickness and modern looks are somehow contradictory to reactionary politics.  (Parallels are evident in the cosmetic adjustments made to the Front National in France.)   

His party members seem well kitted out, dressed less to offend than to blend.  Decency is all in, and efforts are being made to keep the more savage sentiments in the cupboard.  “Open Swedishness” is being promoted as a platform for integration, and Åkesson has been conscious to carry the necessary political ornamentation that comes with good public relations.  Jonas Chongera, a Congo-born former pastor, has been seen keeping him company as a member of the municipal council of Forshaga in Värmland.  Four years ago, the lapsed pastor made it clear that responsibility for refugees was a fundamental goal of the party, proud that the SD was the only one daring to ponder the imponderable issue of immigration. And that was before the arrival of 163,000 asylum seekers in 2015. 

As Barbara Wesel of Deutsche Welle observed,

“It seems that voters really buy this image of the ‘nice son-in-law’ that Jimme Åkesson is projecting – you know, sort of every mother’s dream if she wants to marry off her daughter.” 

Not that this is an image that needed to be sold in the first place.  Traditional voters have been put off by policies seemingly placed on the autopilot of consensus, a stance that made former Prime Minister Frederik Reinfeldt smugly deem Sweden a “humanitarian superpower”.   

Such political tags tend to prove dangerous and unnecessary. 

“I feel immigrants have priority now,” came the opinion of former Social Democrat voter Helena Persson, who did her bit push the SD into first place in the village of Håbo-Tibble.  “The Swedish people come second.” 

Åkesson was also given a modest pre-election fillip by French President Emmanuel Macron, who felt slighted at remarks made by the SD leader calling him an “EU-federalist” who “travels around Europe to speak ill of the national state, nationalism, all that I stand for.”  Between Russia’s Vladimir Putin and France’s Macron, few differences could be discerned, a view prompting the French leader to suggest to Swedish voters, rather impudently, that Åkesson “is not compliant with your story and your values”. 

Åkesson’s views have not been racy or spectacular, having spent time on the boiler plate for some years.  In the summer of 2014, as his party was readying itself for the September general elections, he espoused the sorts of views that would have moved many a supporter of US President Donald Trump.  “Islamism is the Nazism and Communism of our time.”  To those few Swedish nationals who had found their way to fight in Iraq and Syria, “You guys can stay there.  Sweden is no longer your home, this country is built on Christian principles.” 

If tranquil, unflappable Sweden can be rocked and disrupted, the rest need to worry. But it would also be remiss to consume a version of Sweden as the land of milk-honeyed tolerance somehow free of Nazi sympathy.  A figure such as Åkesson is hardly a bolt out of the blue, and historiography on the subject of Swedish fascism has attempted to correct the misunderstandings about its origins and influence.  Elisabeth Åsbrink has done more than anybody else in recent times to show how certain figures of Swedish fascism were very aware about the need to evolve their creed after the Second World War.  Like Ingvar Kamprad’s modular furniture, fascist ideology has, over time, been re-assembled for modern needs.

One such figure in this reassembling venture was Per Engdahl, described by Åsbrink as “intelligent and modern” who realised in 1945 that he needed a new set of clothes, nay, wardrobe, to sell his politics. “He made contact with Oswald Mosley’s fascists in England, with the French fascists, the Swiss Nazis and Hitler’s loyalists in Germany.”  And that was merely a spare green grocer’s list of right wing pugilists, not considering his own role in founding a Danish Nazi party and links with the Italian Social Movement. 

The SD now finds itself riding a European trend distinctly offended by the sensibilities of “bloc” politics.  The forces of progressivism have been found wanting, and refusing to stake any claim to political relevance will simply provide kindle for Åkesson.  Despite not winning the Swedish elections, he has already staked an irrefutable claim to change his country’s politics.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Email: [email protected]

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The UK government is now targeting critics of the fake chemical attack in Salisbury it has attributed to the Russians with zero evidence.

Most recent example, Dr. Chris Busby, a British retired nuclear scientist. His home in Bideford, Devon was raided after cops responding to a domestic argument reported feeling sick after visiting the residence.

Later, it was reported, these supposedly stricken officers felt fine.

Busby was arrested and detained under the explosives act.

I believe the “concern for a woman’s safety” and the reportedly sickened cops are phony as the Skripal poisoning itself. Dr. Busby was targeted for his criticism of the government response to the Skripal affair. He has also criticized the United States for using depleted uranium.

Busby was raided, arrested, and his home sealed off not because he posed a threat to a woman—or because the authorities claim there is a dangerous lab in the home—but because he has appeared on RT and elsewhere expressing a belief the Skripal affair is a false flag.

From The Sun:

Dr Busby is used as an “expert” by the Kremlin-backed RT channel – formerly Russia Today – which today broadcast a staggering interview with suspected Salisbury hitmen Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.

The website headline reads: “COP POISON PROBE Police taken ill with ‘chemical poisoning’ after raid on home of British nuclear expert who appears on Russia Today.” The Independent ran a similar headline.

The Sun, September 13, 2018

Obviously, this raid was planned well beforehand, and the alleged argument was nothing more than an excuse to get inside the home and frame Busby—not for posing a risk to the public, or building explosives, but because he criticized the government, not on Facebook or his own website, but on RT, which is licensed by the Russian government and is falsely and absurdly accused of working with Vladimir Putin to flip an election in the United States.

The raid and arrest send a strong message: criticism of the state, especially in regard to the Skripals, will not be tolerated.

Central Banks Have Gone Rogue, Putting Us All at Risk

September 15th, 2018 by Ellen Brown

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Central bankers are now aggressively playing the stock market. To say they are buying up the planet may be an exaggeration, but they could. They can create money at will, and they have declared their “independence” from government. They have become rogue players in a game of their own.

Excluding institutions such as Blackrock and Vanguard, which are composed of multiple investors, the largest single players in global equity markets are now thought to be central banks themselves. An estimated 30 to 40 central banks are invested in the stock market, either directly or through their investment vehicles (sovereign wealth funds). According to David Haggith on Zero Hedge:

Central banks buying stocks are effectively nationalizing US corporations just to maintain the illusion that their “recovery” plan is working . . . . At first, their novel entry into the stock market was only intended to rescue imperiled corporations, such as General Motors during the first plunge into the Great Recession, but recently their efforts have shifted to propping up the entire stock market via major purchases of the most healthy companies on the market.

The US Federal Reserve, which bailed out General Motors in a rescue operation in 2009, was prohibited from lending to individual companies under the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010; and it is legally barred from owning equities. It parks its reserves instead in bonds and other government-backed securities. But other countries have different rules, and today central banks are buying individual stocks as investments, with a preference for big tech stocks like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft. Those are the stocks that dominate the market, and central banks are bidding them up aggressively. Markets, including the US stock market, are thus literally being rigged by foreign central banks.

The result, as noted in a January 2017 article on Zero Hedge, is that central bankers, “who create fiat money out of thin air and for whom ‘acquisition cost’ is a meaningless term, are increasingly nationalizing the equity capital markets.” At least they would be nationalizing equities, if they were actually “national” central banks. But the Swiss National Bank, the biggest single player in this game, is 48% privately owned; and most central banks have declared their independence from their governments. They march to the drums not of government but of big international banks.

Marking the 10th anniversary of the 2008 collapse, former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke and former Treasury secretaries Timothy Geithner and Henry Paulson wrote in a September 7 New York Times op-ed that the Fed’s tools needed to be broadened to allow it to fight the next anticipated economic crisis, including allowing it to prop up the stock market by buying individual stocks. To investors, propping up the stock market may seem like a good thing; but what happens when the central banks decide to sell? The Fed’s massive $4 trillion economic support is now being taken away, and other central banks are expected to follow. Their US and global holdings are so large that their withdrawal from the market could trigger another global recession. That means when and how the economy will collapse is now in the hands of central bankers.

Moving Goal Posts

The two most aggressive central bank players in the equity markets are the Swiss National Bank and the Bank of Japan.  The goal of the Bank of Japan, which now owns 75% of Japanese exchange-traded funds,  is evidently to stimulate growth and defy longstanding expectations of deflation. But the Swiss National Bank is acting more like a hedge fund, snatching up individual stocks because “that is where the money is.” About 20% of the SNB’s reserves are in equities, and more than half of that is in US equities. The SNB’s goal is said to be to counteract the global demand for Swiss francs, which has been driving up the value of the national currency, making it hard for Swiss companies to compete in international trade. The SNB does this by buying up other currencies, and it needs to put them somewhere, so it is putting the money in stocks.

That is a reasonable explanation for the SNB’s actions, but some critics suspect other motives. Switzerland is home to the Bank for International Settlements, the “central bankers’ bank” in Basel, where central bankers meet regularly behind closed doors. Dr. Carroll Quigley, a Georgetown history professor who claimed to be the historian of the international bankers, wrote of this institution in Tragedy and Hope in 1966:

[T]he powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole.  This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences.  The apex of the system was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland, a private bank owned and controlled by the world’s central banks which were themselves private corporations.

The key to their success, said Quigley, was that they would control and manipulate the money system of a nation while letting it appear to be controlled by the government. The economic and political systems of nations would be controlled not by citizens but by bankers, for the benefit of bankers. The goal was to establish an independent (privately owned or controlled) central bank in every country. Today, that goal has largely been achieved.

In a paper presented at the 14th Rhodes Forum in Greece in October 2016, Dr. Richard Werner, Director of International Development at the University of Southampton in the UK, argued that central banks have managed to achieve total independence from government and total lack of accountability to the people, and that they are now in the process of consolidating their powers. They control markets by creating bubbles, busts, and economic chaos. He pointed to the European Central Bank, which was modeled on the disastrous earlier German central bank, the Reichsbank. The Reichsbank created deflation, hyperinflation, and the chaos that helped bring Adolf Hitler to power. The problem with the Reichsbank, says Werner, was its excessive independence and its lack of accountability to German institutions and Parliament. The founders of post-war Germany changed the new central bank’s status by significantly curtailing its independence. Werner writes, “The Bundesbank was made accountable and subordinated to Parliament, as one would expect in a democracy. It became probably the world’s most successful central bank.”

But today’s central banks, he says, are following the disastrous Reichsbank model, involving an unprecedented concentration of power without accountability. Central banks are not held responsible for their massive policy mistakes and reckless creation of boom-bust cycles, banking crises and large-scale unemployment. Youth unemployment now exceeds 50 percent in Spain and Greece. Many central banks remain in private hands, including not only the Swiss National Bank but the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Italian, Greek and South African central banks.

Banks and Central Banks Should Be Made Public Utilities

Werner’s proposed solution to this dangerous situation is to bypass both the central banks and the big international banks and decentralize power by creating and supporting local not-for-profit public banks. Ultimately, he envisions a system of local public money issued by local authorities as receipts for services rendered to the local community. Legally, he notes, 97 percent of the money supply is already just private company credit, which can be created by any company, with or without a banking license. Governments should stop issuing government bonds, he says, and instead fund their public sector credit needs through domestic banks that create money on their books (as all banks have the power to do). These banks could offer more competitive rates than the bond markets and could stimulate the local economy with injections of new money. They could also put the big bond underwriting firms that feed on the national debt out of business.

Abolishing the central banks is one possibility, but if they were recaptured as public utilities, they could serve some useful purposes. A central bank dedicated to the service of the public could act as an unlimited source of liquidity for a system of public banks, eliminating bank runs since the central bank cannot go bankrupt. It could also fix the looming problem of an unrepayable federal debt, and it could generate “quantitative easing for the people,” which could be used to fund infrastructure, low-interest loans to cities and states, and other public services.

The ability to nationalize companies by buying them with money created on the central bank’s books could also be a useful public tool. The next time the megabanks collapse, rather than bailing them out they could be nationalized and their debts paid off with central bank-generated money. There are other possibilities. Former Assistant Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts argues that we should also nationalize the media and the armaments industry. Researchers at the Democracy Collaborative have suggested nationalizing the large fossil fuel companies by simply purchasing them with Fed-generated funds. In a September 2018 policy paper titled “Taking Climate Action to the Next Level,” the researchers wrote, “This action might represent our best chance to gain time and unlock a rapid but orderly energy transition, where wealth and benefits are no longer centralized in growth-oriented, undemocratic, and ethically dubious corporations, such as ExxonMobil and Chevron.”

Critics will say this would result in hyperinflation, but an argument can be made that it wouldn’t. That argument will have to wait for another article, but the point here is that massive central bank interventions that were thought to be impossible in the 20thcentury are now being implemented in the 21st, and they are being done by independent central banks controlled by an international banking cartel. It is time to curb central bank independence. If their powerful tools are going to be put to work, it should be in the service of the public and the economy.

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This article was originally published on Truthdig.com.

Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including Web of Debt and The Public Bank Solution. A 13th book titled Banking on the People: Democratizing Finance in the Digital Age is due out at the end of the year. She also co-hosts a radio program on PRN.FM called “It’s Our Money.” Her 300+ blog articles are posted at EllenBrown.com.